Bolero - Voyage from Vinland 4/5

Reviewed: 4-1-11


1. Voyage from Vinland
2. Send of the war-summons
3. When the legends die
4. Risen victorious
5. Our land, our sea, our skies
6. Pints held high
7. O' hail to the northlander
8. Throne of storms
9. A silence prolonging
10. Way to forgotten lands
11. Sworn under the winter's majesty/Onward we march

Forgive me if I seem to be repeating myself, but I seem to find myself saying with increasing frequency how much danger folk/viking/pagan/whatever metal is in danger of suffocating itself, with the avalanche of bands that have appeared over the last decade all squabbling for the attention of what is ultimately still a somewhat slender audience.

Maybe I just need to start reviewing other styles, but in any case it is always a blessed relief when a band pops up seemingly from nowhere to reaffirm my faith in the subgenre. Ontario’s Bolero are one such lot, and after a few largely unheralded demo and EP releases have released a ferocious debut full-length in ‘Voyage from Vinland’.

Pulling influences from a variety of the bands that take the power/melodic death approach to folk metal, they have crafted a delectably heavy CD that is maybe most reminiscent of Suidakra, the songs sharing a similar packed density, the ye olde melodies woven into a barrage of combustible riffs and topped for the most part with scathing blackened vocals.

Other than building a Scandinavian rather than Celtic mood, the main difference they display to the German maestros is their keyboard use. Often in independent recordings the keys can be the one thing to bring everything else down, but the sophisticated tones and playing of Alexander Woods belie the CD’s humble beginnings and instead paint a rich tapestry for the rest of the band to scuffle in front of, adding an extremely rich and professional touch to the music. Similarly, the drum sound is outstanding, the bass pedals in particular absolutely thunderous, and the production team are due a round of applause for their efforts.

From this perspective, Bolero put me in mind of their neighbours from across the border in Hammer Horde, as the 2 not only play in a rather similar style but have also gone to equally painstaking efforts to ensure their debuts look and sound as good as they possibly can.

Variety, I’m told, is the spice of life, and it is another thing ‘Voyage from Vinland’ has going in its favour. Bolero make sure the songs sway back and forth from one style to another which allows the CD to flow smoothly from beginning to end and not become mired down in a relentless, self-neutralising gallop. The pelting fury that makes up much of the CD is carefully interspersed with a few more rollicking songs that rely heavily on some outstanding heroic clean vocals and jauntier melodies that entertain without ever becoming cloying silly.

It’s getting more and more difficult, even as a certified fan, not to be cynical when dealing with new bands in this field of music, but I’d urge even the most jaded of listener to make sure they don’t let Bolero pass them by unnoticed. ‘Voyage from Vinland’ is a mighty fine serving of aggressive, yet uplifting, battle hymns, with enough zest and spirit to shake anyone out of their folk metal hangover.




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