Folkearth - By the sword of my father 4/5

Reviewed: 4-27-07


1. Introduction
2. The lady's gift
3. By the sword of my father
4. Naglfar sets sail
5. The death of beowulf
6. Instrumental
7. Skaldic art
8. Domain of darksome ravens
9. Returne to waelhalle
10. Heathenpride
11. Elves
12. Invictus
13. Wisdom of wolves
14. Sailing a'viking
15. Tribute to viking gods
16. Journey ends (outro)

With no fewer than 31 musicians and vocalists credited with recording it, the prospect of listening to Folkearth's 2nd CD 'By the sword of my father' could be seen as a daunting one. With so many musicians coming together to create a CD, the obvious thought that presents itself is that the result would be a directionless, pretentious mess. In fact, the band is set up in a similar fashion to Avantasia and Aina, with a small core of key members being joined by a large cast of guests that each have a small part to play in the overall result.

The result is actually a considerably focused effort that can be seen as something of a celebration of folk metal, drawing on all the members experience to create a blend of many of the genre's different variants to create a (perhaps surprisingly) strong and cohesive effort.

Probably the CD's biggest strength is the variety of styles that are incorporated across the 72-minute running time. There are songs which are essentially speed/power metal layered with additional seasoning from the folk instruments combined with more typical folk metal efforts based around jerky rhythms, as well as harsh, pounding numbers and some sombre ballads. The variety of vocalists, each with a unique style to show off, is massively important to this – traditional metal wailing is set off against ugly black metal growls, beautiful soprano lilting and, in the ballad "Invictus", a mournful performace similar to that of Marco Heitala in his more tender moments.

All these divergent styles are held together under the veil of what is, it has to be said, less-than-perfect production (hardly a surprise considering one of the key members, Magnus Wohlfart, has a couple of one-man black metal side projects on the go). For the want of a better and less clichéd example, it almost feels like there is a veil of mist over the proceedings – the slightly murky sound unifies the songs and helps to stop the varied sound from seeming too disjointed to work as a whole.

A couple of instrumental interludes bridge the songs together across the CD's span, and also add to the ambience created by the production. Without ever getting in the way or simply dragging, these short pieces also give greater roles to the massive variety of traditional folk instruments used in the recordings. Of course, it would be spurious beyond belief to suggest anything other than excellent songwriting is behind the quality of 'By the sword of my father', the manner in which it has been recorded certainly adds to the atmosphere.

While it may take time to sink in with the listener – even great CDs of this length can be something of an endurance test at first – a little patience will be rewarded by an epic, rousing collection of songs that showcase Nordic folk metal at something close to its finest.




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