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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 cloyingly 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.
(Originally written for http://www.metalcdratings.com/)
Having heard folk metal that originates mostly from scandinavia (bands such as Ensiferum, Moonsorrow, etc.), it was interesting to hear what folk metal from these "non-native" countries sound like. Bands such as Eluveitie and Equilibrium instantly come to mind as successful non-scandinavian folk bands. Bolero hails from Canada, where war metal bands (in the veins of Blasphemy, Revenge and Conqueror) are more common.
Fortunately, Bolero doesn't disappoint, with the unsuspecting listener easily lumping them with the Finnish and Swedish folk metal bands, with the melodic death metal influenced brand of folk metal. Right from the start, songs such as Send of the War Summons bring bands like Ensiferun to mind, with the heroic riffs and the growls that are reminiscent of the Victory Songs album. On parts with clean vocals, Turisas' fun take on folk and battle metal instantly come to mind, without compromising the quality and enjoyability of the music. Fortunately, unlike Ensiferum's current frontman Petri, vocalist Morgan is able to belt out his vocals effortlessly. Songs such as Pint Held High brings Korpiklaani to mind, with the drinking theme, with the only difference being the rough vocals and the music that resembles Finntroll's Nattfödd album.
On the softer parts of the album the band also doesn't forget to keep up the heroic feel and emotion of the album. For example, the interlude Our Land, Our Seas, Our Skies gives listeners a sense of standing atop a mountain and breathing in the cold air, enjoying the majestic view that lays beneath, the lands that one has yet to conquer. The band also makes use of the usual sound effects that folk metal bands tend to use, such as the sound of battle on Risen Victorious and the sound of water splashing against the shore on O' Hail the Northlander. On the latter track, the sudden break in the music at 3:15 almost reminds listeners of thrash metal, another display of their wide range of influences while writing their music.
The only disappointing moment on the album is the acoustic A Silence Prolonging, which gave rise to an awkward moment especially after the energetic Throne of Storms. While the instrumentals could have been a good break in between songs, the low vocals felt slightly awkward and it seems that Morgan is more suited for the higher, heroic styled vocals instead. Fortunately though, this is the only song where he utilises such a vocal style. The interlude Way to Forgotten Lands while isn't bad on its own certainly caused the listener to slightly lose patience, and hearing the band going back to their usual tempo on the closing track Sworn Under the Winter's Majesty was certainly refreshing.
Voyage from Vinland is an extremely enjoyable album, and it certainly brings back memories of my first encounter with bands such as Ensiferum, with the catchiness and the heroic feel of the music. While nothing particularly new, it does provide a refreshing look at the whole host of metal bands that come out of Canada.