Folk Stone - Damnati ad metalla 3.5/5

Reviewed: 3-1-11


1. Ol bal di oss
2. Longobardia
3. Aufstand!
4. Anime dannate
5. Frerì
6. Un'Altra volta ancora
7. Luppulus in fabula
8. Terra santa
9. Senza certezze
10. Vortici scuri
11. Nell'Alto cadrò
12. Vanità di vanità
13.Rocce nere (new version)

Don’t let the name fool you – Folk Stone have nothing to do with the ever-generating Folkearth/Folkodia factory, and despite the most obvious superficial similarities don’t really have anything in common with their near-namesakes. Despite the recent clutter, folk metal after all is a little more of a diverse playing field than it is generally given credit for, and Folk Stone are actually purveyors of the lesser-sighted ‘medieval rock’ style more commonly found in Germany.

Taking influences from the usual suspects of Schelmish, In Extremo et al, they produced a satisfactory debut CD a couple of years ago that nevertheless could have done with a bit of work to take the rough edges off. Back with a slightly re-jigged line-up, their 2nd CD ‘Damnati ad metalla’ is undoubtedly an improvement over its forebear and is a promising step forward for the band.

Like many groups in this style, the dominant instrument in the mix is the bagpipes, and while the first CD produced many a fine moment, the songs were often undone by how formulaically they would unfold. Thankfully they have largely rectified this problem on ‘Damnati ad metalla’ by giving the other folk instruments a bit more room to move and also by applying a bit more thought to how the pipes are utilised. Certainly they remain the focal point of Folk Stone’s sound, but the slightly more thoughtful and reserved approach has given everything else a bit more space to breathe, with even a bit of lead guitar sneaking in here and there.

Harps aren’t something you hear to often over a thick guitar riff after all, so it’s quite interesting to hear them given more of an active role this time. Indeed, the opening track “Longobardia” almost raises a flag signalling increased diversity ahead, as the pipes completely take a backseat to the gentle tinkling that quite effectively pierces the galloping rhythms.

As is the norm in the medieval rock/metal style, lyrics remain wholly in the band’s native tongue (in this case Italian), but the frontman Lorenzo is still a dominant force even to those that won’t understand a word he’s saying. His muscular voice is arguably Folk Stone’s most powerful asset, evidenced at full power on the chorus to “Anime dannate” which is a truly majestic bit of work – emotional and inspiring, but at the same time forceful and insistent.

Otherwise there are fewer individual highlights than could maybe be hoped for, but on the whole it is a solid, solid CD with rarely a dull moment and, crucially compared to the debut, no notion at all that the band are just playing the same couple of songs over and over again.

It is an accepted standard to aim for with the sophomore release that a band should be looking to iron out the creases in their formula and further build on their strong points, and Folk Stone have succeeded in doing just that. ‘Damnati ad metalla’ has all the same charms as its predecessor, and fewer of the failings, and is both a sign that the band are moving in the right direction and a pleasurable experience in its own right.




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