Folk Stone - s/t 3/5

Reviewed: 2-20-09


1. Intro
2. Folkstone
3. Briganti di montagna
4. Rocce nere
5. Avanti
6. In taberna (In vino veritas)
7. Oltre il tempo
8. Con passo pesante
9. Lo stendardo
10. Igni cena
11. Alza il corno
12. Outro

As folk metal grows and grows, bands seem to be going to new lengths to distinguish themselves to some extent from their massing contemporaries. Folk Stone (named after the picturesque English costal town?), are a new-ish Italian band comprising a bulky line-up that includes, among other things, several members playing bagpipes along with their complementary instrument, the bombard.

Unlike Argentina's Skiltron, their use of bagpipes as a primary instrument shouldn't be confused with a fascination with Scotland or Mel Gibson (believe it or not, we're not the only country in the history of the world to have used the damned things), as they sing in their own language and the traditional music they blend with their rudimentary metal riffing is unmistakably home grown.

After the intro, the CD kicks off to a flying start with the band's title song, a smart move as it is the only one non-Italian speakers will be able to sing along to the chorus of. A good indication of what is to come, it features several bagpipe parts accompanying the deep, powerful vocals over the thick, if not exactly complex guitar playing. However, the 2nd full track, "Briganti di montagna" sees an immediate manifestation the main shortcoming of the CD that recurs a few times and hampers the overall quality; the bagpipe sections are just too repetitive and predictable to stay fresh for a full listening session.

It often happens when bands in this style place too much emphasis on a single traditional instrument that its constant presence becomes a source of irritation, and Folk Stone are no exception. The more sparing use of flutes and harps that are scattered across the songs add extra layers of texture, and the better songs often are the ones that offer a reprieve from the constant pipe onslaught.

"Rocce nere" features good use of these additional folk instruments, and the pipes are also better utilised, feeling more part of the song and less grafted on. This is also the case for the rendition of the powerful traditional song "Avanti", which has an air of authenticity about it that is lacking from some of the original material.

There are stronger songs towards the end of the CD as well, with "Lo stendarfo" benefiting from an athletic vocal performance, while "Igni cena" has some of the best folk melodies on the CD (perhaps it tells its own story that the song is a Schelmish cover), together with some booming traditional percussion and the presence of the ever-fun mouth harp.

The metallic elements of the band are, perhaps expectedly, somewhat underdeveloped and the guitar is usually left to function as a rhythm instrument only. A lot of bands with traditional instruments front and centre seem to fall into this trap, and it's a shame that they seem unable to see that including some lead guitar in the tapestry they are weaving would make it all the richer.

In the end it makes for a familiar story a band with a lot of talent and a decent premise don't quite manage to knit the varied elements of their sound together as well as you would like, but that is not to say that Folk Stone's debut is not an enjoyable one for all its limitations and annoyances, there is plenty of good material to be found here. I seem to end a lot of my reviews saying that hopefully the band in question will take a step towards realizing their potential with their next CD, and I'm afraid that's how I'll need to wrap this one up too. The elements are all in place, but the writing just needs a bit of sharpening.




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