Lunarium - Journeys, fables and lore 4/5
2. Death rides (On winged glory)
3. Sea dragons
4. The divine infidelity of a false prophet
5. Heritage taken
7. Hail the fallen
8. Brothers in arms
9. Feast of sargonnas
11. Elizabeth's song
12. The waymen
14. Luna's wake
It may be to do with the differences in cultural heritage to European countries, it may not, but the fact remains that folk metal is a sparse presence in the United States. What better way then for the new indie metal label Farvahar Records to mark their maiden release than with a fine example of this subgenre in what seems like the one part of the world where it is under-populated?
Forming only a few years ago, Lunarium, who debut here with 'Journeys, fables and lore', play the sort of folk metal that is built solely on guitar melodies and sturdy, galloping riffs, with no keyboard accompaniment and no instruments more traditional than the acoustic guitar on show.
Vocalist Cinnead Loreweaver may sound a little familiar to listeners, and with good reason, for he is a near dead-ringer for Falconer's Mathias Blad. Just like the Swede he comes from a classically trained background, and his operatic, lilting vocals lend an extremely dramatic flair to Lunarium's songs. Occasional bursts of growled vocals serve as a complete counterpoint to the ultra-clean singing that dominates the CD and add extra texture to the songs during their sparing use. The vocals may in fact take a little getting used to – partly because the production seems to separate them ever so slightly from the music, almost as if Loreweaver's voice is floating just above everything else. It is a minor annoyance, and one that fades after a few listens, but it still niggles slightly. It is also true that there are points where the vocals are just a little too clean for the heavier segments of the music. The harsh vocals – only given proper exposure on the opening and closing tracks – could do with a little more airing than acting just as points of emphasis at the end of lines. The heavy riffs in the verses of "Brothers in arms", for instance, would benefit greatly from a more gritty vocal delivery to contrast the jaunty chorus.
While the songs are all cut from the same cloth, there is a reasonable degree of variety across the recordings. The Falconer comparison does not stop with the singing, as many of the tunes having a giddy, minstrels-gone metal appeal similar to songs like "A quest for the crown" from the Swedish band's debut. Contrasting this style are more frenetic, Ensiferum-style gallopers - the guitar playing shines on these faster songs, and while not especially complex, the melodies and harmonies are varied and compelling, and show that a plethora of folk instruments is not necessary to make this sort of music a success.
The lyrics are mostly based in the very literal recounting of various European history and legend, and are generally as theatrical as the voice delivering them. Overviews like "Warcry" and "1066" show the in-depth knowledge Loreweaver must have of these subjects without sounding as though he is just reading from a textbook, while "The divine infidelity of a false prophet" is an example of an imaginative, self-penned tale channelled into song.
If there are complaints to be made about the CD, they are minor. It does have to be noted that it is just a little overlong – 65 minutes of songs in this style that are rarely greater than 4-1/2 minutes is just a little excessive. None of them immediately stick out as being weak enough to be dropped, but 15 songs in the same style is perhaps a little much for one sitting. A folk metal CD this long really has to have some of its running time spent on more prolonged epics. It is of course a tendency of younger bands to throw everything they've got onto their debut CD, but saving a few songs for their 2nd release may have been more prudent. Like the minor vocals issues, this is a minor quibble as it is most definitely not a case of quantity over quality. Stripped-down folk metal of this sort can be a refreshing alternative to the more extravagant bands in the genre, and this 'Falcensiferum' sound makes for an on-the-whole excellent debut release from both the band and label. As with many debut CDs there are kinks to be ironed out, but the band have shown more than enough to suggest they are capable of doing so when CD number 2 rolls around.
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