Saturday, January 22, 2011

Review: Falkenbach - Tiurida (2011)

Falkenbach [ Website ]
Napalm Records

Ever since I first heard 1998's ...Magni Blandinn Ok Megintiri... I've been sold on Falkenbach's majestic Viking metal sound. Vratyas Varyas - the heart, soul, and only full-time member of the band - has consistently delivered albums that have evoked images of  misty fjords and Nordic might. Unlike other folk metal outfits that draw inspiration from the Dark Ages, such Ensiferum and Turisas, Falkenbach relies more heavily on folk melodies and instrumentation than pure blackened aggression. Varyas' songs are, therefore, typically mid-tempo compositions with clean vocals though the black metal elements are not entirely absent.

Tiurida is Falkenbach's fifth full-length album and the first new material in over seven years (Heralding - The Fireblade was released in 2005 but consists of material originally written and recorded a decade earlier). With such a long span between albums, it's not unreasonable to expect a stylistic shift or at least some sort of variation on the core Falkenbach sound. Tiurida will disappoint anyone hoping for such a change, but will fully satisfy those (like myself) who are perfectly content with Varyas' vision thus far.

Everything that distinguishes Falkenbach from the others in the Viking horde are clear and present on Tiurida. The trademark war horn that opens the album, combined with the sounds of waves lapping at the shore and ominous thunder in the distance, blends seamlessly into the first proper song of the album. "...Where Ravens Fly..." relies on flute and vocal cadence to develop its Scandinavian folk atmosphere, with Varyas' clean vocal style similar to that of ex-Týr frontman Heri Joensen. Simple, groovy riffs repeat throughout the course of the track to keep the song from drifting completely away from metal. This basic Falkenbach formula returns on "Runes Shall You Know" and "Sunnavend", with the former song harnessing some nice post-rock guitar ambiance and the later relying on mandolin and flute interplay to produce an interesting Baltic flavoring.

Separated by the medieval-sounding instrumental track "Tanfana", "Time Between Dog And Wolf" and "In Flames" are the two songs on Tiurida that venture deepest into the realm of black metal. Though both are mid-paced with simplistic riffs, the guitar tone is darker than on the other tracks and carries with it a sinister weight. Varyas adopts a raspy style, foregoing his softer baritone to give the lyrics an icy edge. Even with an increased black metal presence, the guitars manage to forge plenty of atmosphere so as to not leave behind the mood developed by the more folkish songs.

In the end, if you're a fan of Falkenbach you can blindly pick up Tiurida and won't be disappointed in the least. Folk metal aficionados will also find this album to be a worthy addition to their collection, but if you're looking for black metal to dominate then Tiurida is not the release for you. As a fan, I'm happy with Varyas' latest product and hope his next album won't take nearly as long to see the light of day.

Track Listing
2...Where His Ravens Fly...7:26
3Time Between Dog And Wolf6:02
5Runes Shall You Know6:01
6In Flames7:56
Total Runtime40:28

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