Folkearth - Fatherland 2.5/5
1. Hymn to Zeus
2. Braver than heroes vows (The battle of Plataea)
3. Guardian of the bridge
4. Freedom or death (Ksovo 1389)
5. Terror from the sea
7. The fall of Atlantis
8. The victory rune
9. In blessed days
10. Cataphract legion
A lot of bands that lose their way leave you asking “what went wrong?”, but with Folkearth it’s really pretty obvious. ‘Fatherland’ is no less than their 6th full-length CD since 2004, the 5th since 2006 and the last of 3 released in 2008. Quality control obviously went out the window a while ago, and after the impressive-but-inconsistent ‘Drakkars in the mist’ came the decidedly mediocre ‘Father of victory’.
Production was never the strong point of the rotating multinational outfit’s releases, but it nose-dived from forgivably raw to just plain poor, with the whole thing sounding compressed and lifeless. The vocals on the CD also suffered a big drop in quality, most of the assorted outstanding singers from past efforts gone to be replaced with some near-tuneless female wailing and completely ridiculous ‘epic’ male vocals. Beneath all that that was a bunch of songs that just lacked any of the old magic, sounding like a slapdash collection of donated instrumental passages grafted onto fairly pedestrian metal compositions.
After the acoustic sidestep ‘Songs of yore’ the line-up has shuffled again, with a comparatively slender cast of 11 recording ‘Fatherland’, which has turned out to be something of an improvement, but still well below the quality expected of this band after their impressive early work.
The clean male vocals are regrettably on the whole still quite poor. Handled for the most part by a single person, it’s hard to tell whether the production is seriously holding him back or whether he really is as bad as he sounds here, but the fact that at the time of writing this the band’s Myspace page is headed with a plea for new clean vocalists maybe tells its own story. Attempting to sound sombre and reverent, the vocalist instead often sounds as though he is on the point of tears and it is nearly impossible to pick out the words he is singing from the droning most of the time.
Whether the vocalists Folkearth have used in the past were unavailable at the time this CD was recorded or have just lost interest in the project, the fact that they have pressed on regardless and recorded with an inferior replacement only adds to the notion that it is all about quantity rather than quality with this band.
The harsh vocals however are commendably good and suffer less for the stifled recording quality, while the female vocals are a big improvement over ‘Father of victory’, the chanting sections sounding far more in tune with the music and the regular singing offers a welcome reprieve from the more dominant male vocals.
Overall it represents a more simplistic version of the Folkearth style; the usual epic folk/viking metal (with an increasing Eurasian influence courtesy of the growing number of Greek musicians in the collective), but with a far shorter supply of traditional instrumental sections being hemmed into and between the songs. While it admittedly feels a more unified effort than some of the more sprawling early works, the overall effect is still lacking. The songs that work better tend to be those that allow the acoustic guitars to take the lead, as the distorted sections are subdued by the weak production and especially the rotten double-bass sound from the programmed drums. The weaker vocals even manage to struggle through the muddy sound a little better in these sections.
So even though ‘Fatherland’ is both above average and indeed an improvement over the last fully electric Folkearth CD, it remains a disappointing return from a band (or whatever) that only a couple of years back were providing such excellent music. I’m sure any fans of the older material would be happier waiting a year or 2 for a really good bunch of songs rather than an endless, poorly recorded supply of hit and miss material. If they continue churning out CDs at their current rate, with the amount of folk-related metal out there these days, this once mighty concept runs the risk of becoming little more than a sad self-parody.
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