Friday, June 10, 2005

Review: Tumulus - Winter Wood (2004)

Tumulus [ MySpace ]
Winter Wood
Wroth Emitter

Tumulus, like many of the bands reviewed here at Harvest Moon Music, is a band that you've most likely never heard of. And just like most of the bands reviewed here, Tumulus is a band worthy of your attention. Based northeast of Moscow, this Russian five-piece was formed when members of the Viking metal band Scald vowed to carry on after the death of their vocalist. Opting for a change in musical direction, the founders of Tumulus turned to the Slavic musical and pagan traditions of their homeland to create a sound they call "art progressive folk metal". Don't let the "art" turn you away, however, because unlike albums from most art-prog outfits Tumulus' Winter Wood keeps the music tight and the melodies flowing while still creating unique and heady atmospheres.

Much of the atmosphere is keyboard-induced, thanks to the magical soundscapes from Vigdis. Her work, while at the forefront of the band's sound, is never overpowering and achieves maximum effect without sacrificing the contributions of the other instruments. To that end, frontman Kuchma adds the enchanting ambiance of the flute (particularly on "Tam, gde zhili sviristeli" and "Odolen'Trava"), while guitarist Igreny incorporates the traditional balalaika into the string section.

As I'm sure you've surmised by now from the song titles, Winter Wood is sung almost entirely in Russian. With lyrical subjects rooted in Slavic paganism and naturalism, perhaps it's best to express the meanings in the native tongue of the region rather than lose something in the translation. In my opinion, the music is only the better for the non-English vocals. Two songs are, however, sung in English. "The Thread" features Vigdis and bass player Velingor sharing the lead vocal duties, and is one of the most "artsy" tracks on the album due to the ample use of sound effects and vocal distortions. The title track is a much more straightforward prog metal song featuring riffs from both Vigdis and Igreny, but with few folk influences. On the remainder of the tracks, vocalist Kuchma sticks primarily with a clean vocal style that is fitting for the music but does lack a certain degree of power at times. Due more to the production than to Kuchma's talent, his vocals are at times buried beneath the instrumentation. On a final note relating to the vocals on Winter Wood, Russian folk singer Marina Sokolova guests as lead vocalist on "Yavir" and "Resnoti Sont'...". Sounding a bit like Stevie Nicks after a hit of helium, she nevertheless adds a bit of mysticism to the songs - especially on "Yavir", which is the most "folksy" on the album.

Winter Wood is an album that will not appeal to everyone, and I don't believe Tumulus intended it to. Fans of folk metal, prog metal, and metalheads who are just looking for something unique will enjoy what the band has to offer.

Track Listing
1 Stin' 2:02
2 Odolen'Trava 5:15
3 Yavir 4:45
4 Morok uzrev 3:45
5 Krada 4:47
6 The Thread 5:59
7 Tam, gde zhili sviristeli 4:57
8 Vo Luzeh (Omutkovo Lyadi) 4:42
9 Resnoti Sont'... 4:39
10 Winter Wood 5:27
11 Obereg 4:40

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