Folkearth - Drakkars in the mist 3.5/5

Reviewed: 9-28-07


1. Before battle I embrace
2. Hoplites awaiting command
3. Hugin & munin
4. Grimnismol (The ballad of grimnir)
5. Higtid
6. Sworn to the raven
7. Great god pan
8. Drakkars in the mist
9. Midgard farewell
10. De tause fjell
11. If I should fall
12. When long ships arrive
13. On wings divine
14. Thunders of war
15. The bane of giants
16. Kingdom of the shades
17. The riding of the Queen Boudiccea

Less than a year after their highly satisfactory 2nd CD 'By the sword of my father', the musicians behind the multinational conglomerate Folkearth have regrouped with a largely-revamped ensemble of folk instrumentalists to produce 'Drakkars in the mist'.

But despite the large rotation in the group's sprawling line-up, the songwriting has remained unaffected as the core members that lead Folkearth have stayed in place, and the epic folk/viking metal sound they have established with their varying guest musicians is unaffected.

That is not to say that 'Drakkars in the mist' does not differ from its predecessor in certain respects. On the whole, it is probably a softer and more reflective piece, with a more direct focus on the acoustic guitars and varied traditional instruments than before. Indeed, a great deal of the CD can simply be classed as 'folk' rather than 'folk metal', with several songs being completely devoid of drums and electric guitar. This may be as a result of the CD being slightly rushed - presumably with a bit more time to craft them, a few of the interludes or acoustic songs would have been worked into more rounded-out metal songs.

Adding further credence to the notion of the CD being hurried is that the final 3 songs are listed as bonus tracks. Rather than being material the band didn't feel would fit in with the already diverse recordings, the inferior production on these songs suggests they are demo tracks that Folkearth didn't have time to record properly. It's a shame that the CD ends on this mixed note, as it would benefit greatly from having the songs tidied up and spread throughout to more appropriate places.

But this is, in the end, a minor complaint. It is actually refreshing to hear Folkearth taking a slightly different approach this time around, and the folk instruments are given a little more room to express themselves than they were on 'By the sword of my father'. There are, of course, still several more straightforward viking metal songs that compliment the traditional pieces, with "De tause fjell" providing a more power metallish, Ensiferum-like sound to stand against the black metal influenced songs such as the opener, "Before battle I embrace". If any influence has made way, it seems to have been the jerky-rhythm 'party-folk' (in the Finntroll style), which is much less prevalent this time around.

The softer songs are in fact often the best, with the half-interlude, half-song "Hoplites awaiting command" making perfect use of a chilling piano piece before briefly breaking into a sombre acoustic battle cry. Similarly, "Great god pan" varies between spoken vocals and a strained chorus backed by pipes and acoustic guitars to make for one of the best songs in the Folkearth catalogue.

What Folkearth have provided with 'Drakkars in the mist' is another tremendously varied collection of Nordic folk metal that clings closely to its predecessors without ever sounding like a rehash. Were it not for the rush to get the product from the studio to the listeners, it would perhaps stand shoulder to shoulder with 'By the sword of my father', but ends up just a small step below.




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