TEN FROM THE TOMB is a weekly feature in the form of a themed list devoted to grouping together albums of similar interest that I missed throughout the year 2019. These albums were overlooked for review for any number of reasons with the most common reason being constraint of time. I have a policy of covering 99% of everything I receive in some form, be it mini-review or full-feature, so don’t hesitate to send anything and everything my way.
Here I present a ten album sampler of folk and folk metal albums from the first half of 2019. Consider it a very small look at both modern folk, neofolk, and such in contrast with the strange traditions of folk metal, old and new, that persist today. Most of these albums made it here to Ten From the Tomb because I couldn’t manage the time for a long-form review or because I really didn’t have more than a paragraph or two worth of insight beyond banal description. If you’re not into the selection this week, relax! This’ll be back every 7 days with 10 more albums from different styles, genres, themes, etc.
Hey! Don’t dive in thinking this will all be shit just because I am not doing full reviews for these releases! I always have some quality control in mind and look for expressive, meaningful, or just damn heavy releases that hold value without gimmickry or bland plagiarism. This weeks picks come directly from my own curation of folk-related releases, but every other week I conduct a poll on PATREON where patrons vote on the sub-genre or subject of the list. Next week I’ll be covering whatever Patrons decide. Thank you! I am eternally grateful for the support of readers and appreciate the friendly and positive interactions I’ve had with all thus far. Think my opinions are trash and that I suck? Want to totally tell me off, bro? Click away and let’s all live more sensible lives full of meaningful interactions. I’m too old and bored with people to care.
|Title [Type/Year]||True Western Doom [Full-length/2019]|
|Rating [3.75/5.0]||BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
A preeminent blackened sludge and black metal guitarist best known for his continued presence in Lord Mantis as well as extensive involvement in black metal projects Nachtmystium and Avichi, Aamonael aka Andrew Markuszewski sets out upon a vision quest beyond black metallic constraints with Sonoran Rebel Black Magick. Intending to call upon the traditions of North American desert folk and rock music, Markuszewski achieves a darkly spiritual sound that only briefly feels traditional. You’ll most certainly hear the gritty stalks of Nick Cave, mid-90’s Swans, and perhaps Tom Waits in the midst but some of the nigh darkwave/industrial rock influences that crop up for songs like “Devil Shine on Me” really drive home the 90’s Michael Gira/Swans influences. Two worlds collide on “Doomchief” where a sort of electro-folk moment works in concept but feels a bit odd in the tracklist. “Tantra Bandits” is more or less the remedy for this and a better meshing of cryptic darkwave and the simpler kick drum beats that anchor the mood of ‘True Western Doom’. I love the concept, the experimental beast of it all and how unique the full listen is an experience but the acoustic guitar does begin to fall off in the second half of the album and this is disappointing considering how compelling the guitar work is on the first half. “Poetry of the Desert Tomb” is by far my favorite moment here and largely thanks to Markuszewski’s vocal work, one of the few tracks not hindered by vocal effects. Definitely recommend this record for its unique feeling that never manages to sound like gimmickry.
|Title [Type/Year]||Infinigrammaton [Full-length/2019]|
|Rating [4.0/5.0]||BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
The fifth album from Serbian ‘luciferian death folk’ artist Tamerlan, ‘Infinigrammaton’, is a stirring piece of high-atmospheric folk art that delivers beyond expectations. One of my favorite records of 2018 was Gruntode‘s ‘Bosque’ because of its admixture of death metal vocals and nakedly acoustic folk guitar work yet, in many ways Tamerlan‘s years of experience raise the bar much higher for this style of music. The mood of the album is consistent in wavelength in moving from prophetic moments (“Heart of a Man – Soul of a Wolf”) towards a brooding gloom that begins to overtake the album (“From The Vast Primordial Ocean”). Every song here is placed beautifully and though they’re implemented with similar sounds and instrumentation each has its own voicing. I don’t see an album like ‘Infinigrammaton’ as expressing existential dread, nor does it focus on selfish pride but rather a sense of wonder and the interconnected reality of nature, life and death’s cycle. Well, interpret it however you feel but I completely loved this album and continue to be hugely impressed with the quality of Casus Belli Musica‘s choices these last few years. Each record from Tamerlan has some guests and this time I’m most impressed by the inclusion of Alexandros (Macabre Omen) on the stirring “On the Wings of Cosmic Light”, and Monolithe‘s Sylvain Begot‘s guitar solos on “Indivination Plan”. Each adds a beautiful and seamless highlight to an already strong album.
|Title [Type/Year]||Ategnatos [Full-length/2019]|
|Rating [2.75/5.0]||LISTEN on Spotify!|
One of the main reasons I’ve kept up with Eluvietie releases over the years is nostalgia for their first two albums, not because they were so exceptional but because of a time and place where folk metal was a bit more ambitious and well, less polished into turds that all sound the same. ‘Ategnatos’ is the first album I’ve checked out since longtime guitarist Ivo Henzi (Forest of Fog, Cellar Darling) had left in 2016 and I felt like his rhythm work had always kept an otherwise average band interesting. The cheap and predictable melodic death metal riffs, chugging blandness, and intermittent electro modernity feel like a huge conflict of interest in terms of traditional folk metal but hey, they’re aiming for a progressive style anymore that just isn’t ever going to be my thing. Christian Glanzmann continues to be a talent, a true artist and a fellow with an impressive vision but when things become this ‘commercial’ metal I am too alienated to continue. The only part I felt was repeatable was the flute work on “Ambiramus” and the rest of the hour was just too impersonal and corny to digest.
|Title [Type/Year]||Énouement [EP/2019]|
|Rating [3.5/5.0]||BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
A most notably cold tragedy that can only come with age is to finally know the answers to so many of the questions that’d gone unanswered in youth and therein lies the inescapable tradition of regret. It could surely be debilitating even before reaching middle age if you’re particularly intelligent, or perhaps there blossoms the virtuous torture of generationally ingrained denial. German folk musician Herr K. is a solitary figure who’d create with a clearly deep and long love of the folk singer-songwriter in heart. This duo of song is warmed by simple percussion and a slightly more uptempo pace for these somber pieces, giving a clear bit of late 60’s folk affect that is enhanced by layered vocals used to emphasize certain chorus. I’m not sure the content of this 7″ EP ties into any particular Kafka work as some previous Prag 83 work had, my favorite being ‘Metamorphoses’ (2016), but Herr K. is recognizable as himself all the same. A quieting listen.
|Title [Type/Year]||Vestigial Tales [Full-length/2019]|
|Rating [4.0/5.0]||BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
It is easy to feel connected with the folk ambitions and exploration of the original (and current) Code alumnus as the progressive black metal band (turned progressive post-rock band) would create opportunities for musicians capable and keen enough to grasp them. With Hexvessel very much returning to root, to community and collective spirituality ‘All Tree’ felt as a shared experience whereas Peleser feels personal as a sorrowful bard pulling from his repertoire of mythologies and fables to focus a restless mind upon the tales of the land. Of course, Aort (Andy McIvor) and Kvohst’s co-songwriting reunion in Hexvessel‘s recent work lent so much character to a ship that many felt lost at sea without that original Code partnership, here in Peleser we witness the barenaked mind of McIvor in terms of composition. ‘Vestigial Tales’ comes by way of current Code vocalist Wacian (Alternative Carpark) and McIvor who’ve created a somber place to rest and wonder within its ~40 minute length. Not purely dark folk and not as totally thrown back upon early English pre-progressive folk as on ‘All Tree’, the heritage of both inform Peleser‘s first breath.
There is a glorious drama to opener “Hopeless Diamond” that merely introduces the complex and sometimes conversational thought process of ‘Vestigial Tales’. From that conflict comes warmth in reflection by way of the detached, a sort of emotion you might only feel alone but, harmonized and pure in the moment before it is tragically come and gone. In this sense I’m describing my own major immersion with “Remote Viewing” but the dive becomes deeper still as the tracklist progresses towards two back-to-back narrative experiences that are almost Poe-like in their adjoining spaces. “From the Horses Mouth” is just incredible as an unexpected jolt of horror, of murder and possession, giving way to the wild beneath the surface tension of “Yellow Dress” that bleeds out as it ends. This is the most spectacular point of interest on the album and thankfully both ‘sides’ of the digital only experience have each their own interesting emotional peaks. I don’t think I’d had any of my own personal references to pull from in terms of psychedelic folk that’d necessarily gone this ‘dark’ but probably for lack of paying close attention, thankfully the Stone Angel cover (“The Black Dog”) that ends the album gives some hint of inspiration. Hugely impressed by this album and hope it at least makes it to cassette at some point.
|Title [Type/Year]||Sorlande Sky / Majestic Translucence [Split EP/2019]|
|Rating [3.5/5.0]||BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
This split 7″ provided my own introduction to Gothenburg, Sweden based folk metal duo Bhleg who’ve released two full-lengths since the dissolution of their meeting place within depressive/melodic black project Ljuset. Their track feels entirely related to their 2018 full-length ‘Solarmegin’ which had taken on slightly more atmospheric black metal influence in their greater guitar progressions. The song builds to a nice apex and I’m hoping their upcoming full-length really focuses on using harmonized clean vocals like this, it breathes quite a bit of life into a fairly standard song and distracts from the uninteresting drumming. I am much more familiar with the work of Nechochwen who lead with less subtle melody and strike into inspiration immediately, this is more my own speed. This track “Majestic Translucence” showcases their guitar forward approach to folkish black metal and bodes well for the inevitable full-length that has been long anticipated, along with an upcoming Obsequiae record. Though Nechochwen often takes a backseat to many other things, they always appear in earnest and with material worth deeper consideration and this song is no different. Any split experience is going to be a bit lop-sided for my own tastes but these two tracks are yet a strong handshake between worlds.
|Title [Type/Year]||Ériú’s Wheel [Full-length/2019]|
|Rating [2.75/5.0]||BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
I found it nigh impossible to connect with this latest Waylander album despite having enjoyed most of their discography to date. In fact it wasn’t because of any strong opinion but rather that it inspired very little within me. The mix is quite odd where this subtle form of extreme folk metal is blasting from all angles within a mid-paced song, as if it were a Celtic early 2000’s Rotting Christ album. I believe at the time I was already well-steeped in the effects of Saor‘s latest album and felt this lacked any certain beauty that’d pull me back in. “Imbolc” is exactly the right example of this as it starts out aiming for the clouds and then a jagged rock solo or the King Fowley-esque vocals delete some of the grace involve. That is my own fault of expectations as the previous album was similar in most aspects, but I was still left wanting for more successful melodies. “The Vernal Dance” gets it right and is perhaps the main reason I came back to the album after several listens. Hard as I tried I couldn’t put together a full review that I was satisfied with as I wasn’t satisfied with the album.
|Title [Type/Year]||Sings [Full-length/2019]|
|Rating [3.25/5.0]||BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
A dark folk artist from Finland, imagine that. Ah well, hold on now Karelian singer-songwriter H.C. Slim is yet a bit different in that his narrative is almost in the tradition of the deepest Americana. His affect is surely Finnish, but perhaps not so deep in its drawl, yet his goal is oddly devoted to seeing light in the dark, birth from apocalypse, and to preach that all must go through a hell to appreciate a heaven. ‘Sings’ is prefaced on paper as written by a transient subsisting on the fringes of societal expectations but, perhaps by necessity of freedom rather than vice. If anything “Come My Love” is a foggy window into a worldview of restraint and longing born from a philosophy that is simple, vague, and well… as plainly decided upon as a Guthrie or a Dylan. Hey, if you buy all of that along with the heavy Christian message of it all and you have no reference point towards early North American folk artists, the inspiration might not be so clear but that is neither here nor there I suppose; ‘Sings’ reads as minimal modern folk that is all the more gorgeous if you crank it up quite loud. Many layers of production and depth are revealed when those songs move physical space, and there I found myself enjoying H.C. Slim, on a very loud stereo in the middle of a calm sunny day.
|Title [Type/Year]||Holodom Bitv V Obyatya Zimy [Full-length/2019]|
Another album that exemplifies the weird state of modern folk metal in that it has been heavily influenced by the state of modern symphonic power metal and the general love of electro-synth keyboard work. Do pan flutes work with early 2000’s house music synth? No! It all sounds a bit like the soundtrack to Castlevania: Curse of Darkness with blast beats at certain points and much like Eluvietie‘s vocalist Stozhar‘s lead feels entirely pointless in her placement. Elements of dance music and folk metal music are completely at odds in every case and at some point it feels horrendously comical. “Golos Mechei” was the point of collapse for me. It starts out sounding a bit like earlier Falkenbach for a moment and then in honks what sounds like a child’s recorder (internal duct flutes) with a very repetitive melody, there I completely write off this album. So, why write about it here? I’d meant to place the latest Månegarm album here but the album is packed away for a move and I didn’t get a digital copy. Also this album has a cool album cover if you squint your eyes a tiny bit.
|Title [Type/Year]||Hunnar [Full-length/2019]|
|Rating [2.5/5.0]||BUY & LISTEN on Bandcamp!|
Kazan, Russia post-folk metal band Baradj certainly take their time producing each album and though they appear somewhat like a commercial ‘Euro-metal’ band it comes from a certain high bar they’ve set from release to release. ‘Hunnar’ specifically themes itself with the Huns and the impact of their post-Roman Empire nomadic barrage across Asia and northern Europe. I think in my news blurb about the band I’d compared them to Amorphis on some level for their modern rock/post-rock sense of composition as well as Dalriada for their folk elements but this posits a very melodious sort of music and Baradj are primarily a post-metal group on ‘Hunnar’. As interesting as I found this album initially, the clean guitar post-rock interludes between each song quickly become tiresome (often a 4 minute instrumental precedes another 2 minute instrumental…) and they almost never tie in with the songs they introduce. I think I found their point of view and historical prose about Attila, the Huns and how it’d influenced modern day northern European life today far more interesting than the music itself. This would be far more effective as a 30 minute EP freed of the unrelated interludes.
Did I miss your favorite 2019 album? Send me an e-mail and tell me about it. It is always worthwhile to speak up for the lesser known stuff. Please remember you can contribute to my Patreon @ only $1 USD per month ($12 a year) to help keep me in front of the computer writing about metal. Thanks.
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