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Well, well… so ANOTHER viking-folk act trying to make it big in the business, right? YES, Heidevolk fits in that category way so good, except, of course:
1. These Dutch guys have been around for a lil’ longer than most of the dozens out there nowadays; it’s 10 years, now.
2. Unlike tons and tons of bands that share the same sub-genre, at least on the paper, Heidevolk haven’t taken a variety of folk and acoustic instruments as the base for their happy sound.
3. They’ve featured since the very beginning, the simplest, yet most interesting characteristic of two singers with a significantly different tessitura from each other.
So, when I heard “Batavi” was coming I was frankly interested, even having very little background on their work. I mean I had only listened to “Walhalla Wacht” (2008) and it was OK, but just that. In general, it was enjoyable and a little weak though, a wrongly directed attempt to be exhilarating that ended up in too happy shit that had SOME moments, if you like. Nevertheless, having into consideration the aspects mentioned before, I was sure they could do better, much better.
And they DID do better, except not much. I’d say “Batavi” displays several highlights that make it consistent and well accomplished, although not impressive. I’m trying not to be too judgmental here; I wouldn’t even review it if I didn’t think it wasn’t worth at all in the first place. Musical maturity of this guys is quite obvious here. One could predict it since the very cover of the album; you know, darker brown and grey colors, a more abstract image, etc.
First of all, I’d point at the drumming. Not sure if it’s the first time, but you’ll get to hear a few blast beats here! Not overreacting, my excitement is well-grounded. Somehow, Joost Vellenknotscher managed to flare up his beats without destroying the folky feeling required for such album.
Also the guitar work has improved. They go faster and thicker getting to produce a metal-as-you-can-get sound that we all thank for when it’s well done. Even some hints of speed metal are to be found here, as well as a couple breakdowns. Surely, a couple decent solos would have been appreciated, but, wait, are there ANY? If there are, I simply can’t recall them. That should tell you enough on the matter.
Vocals remain pretty much the same: a bass and a baritone singers, both growling from time to time, but mostly chanting cleanly epic profound verses along the whole album. Sounds good to me!
All in all, “Batavi” is an interesting release, particularly if you ain’t fed up with viking-folk sound. It’s easy to listen, good enough and even refreshing. In a day when most bands sound exactly the same, I’m glad to see a few are still trying to create a style of their own without becoming annoying. Cheers!
—Originally written for www.globaldomination.se
In all honesty, Heidevolk are a great folk metal band. Don't know if it's due to the fact that they play a very guitar-driven version of it, their duo-vocal assault, or simply because the music is catchy while retaining the primal pagan fury, but Heidevolk managed to completely rule with their first three albums. I still listen to "Uit Oude Grond" at least once a week and their debut has one of the most memorable drinking songs in the world (the song is Het Bier Zal Weer Vloeien). Heidevolk are unique, of that there is no doubt.
Now come 2012 and the band unleashes their fourth studio effort on us called Batavi. Immediately as you start the first track, you realize something's wrong here. Guitars are fucking too massive for a Heidevolk album, which implies crystal clear production. It's too well produced for a folk metal album. It's not the heaviness that's the problem as Heidevolk always had a lot of guitars (I already mentioned they had very guitar-driven songs) in their sound, however this is just too much. Think Dimmu's Stormblast remake. No identity, no rawness, just overpolished guitars. So, the opener starts, and it plods, and it passes. No movement at all. Think about their previous openers: Saksenland, Nehalennia, and Krijgsvolk. Those were damn good songs, simply for the fact that the hook started from the first riff. Here it doesn't. "Een Nieuw Begin“ is not gripping; it has no hooks, and by the time it ended I recall nothing about it, which actually leads to the biggest problem about this album. There is no folk in it. Or, maybe I overreacted. There is some very, very scarce folk in this, but you will just have to dig so deeply you'll end up in your own ass.
Now for the non-exaggerated analysis, folk doesn't begin until you have reached sixth track, "Veleda“, unless you count the beginning of "Wapenbroeders“, it has that little and short violin line that will repeat itself a few more times throughout the song. Speaking of "Veleda“, it's a totally pointless and unnecessary track. It's this album's Dagenraad. Just a short instrumental driven by acoustics and violin. Isn't this supposed to be a folk metal album? There are some more folkish moments on the next two tracks, and the last track is again devoid of any folk. Seriously, the folksiest part of this album comes in the shape of Joris' and Mark's singing, which has always been a part of this band's sound, it's just that Heidevolk can't rely solely on dual singing to hold the album together as a folk metal album. Metal is primarily the music, right? "Als de dood...“ is again very heavy right from the start with a shining gallop rhythm, but the riff is totally faceless, unfitting, and again, it's lame.
Is there anything saving the album? Yes, as much as the over-brought guitars and shitty production ruins the album, I must say there are actually some decent guitar solos, and some of them are the best Heidevolk has done so far. The immediate example would be the one in "In Het Woud Gezworen“, you WILL bang your head to it. "Wapenbroeders“ has some nice leads and great double bass drumming as well as a very good breakdown halfway into the song.
It would be very unfair to say that they should record another "Walhalla Wacht“, but maybe that's just what they should do. This is not totally devoid of good music, it's just that it doesn't really feel like a Heidevolk album and much less like a folk metal album. A few folksy moments does not do the trick. Heidevolk can do much, much better than this. Not recommended.
With Batavi, Heidevolk delivers its fourth full-length, and the Dutchmen made it into a very fine album with the necessary amount of spice.
For those of you who don't know Heidevolk, here's a short introduction to the band. Heidevolk is a folk metal sextet from the Dutch province Gelderland, who sing in Dutch. The band uses two singers but no folk instruments (except for a guest's contribution once in a while).
Batavi is the fourth album by the Dutchmen and a first concept album. Until now, the band sang about a variety of themes (mythology, history, folk and drinking songs) and now turns towards the history of the treaty between the Germanic tribe of the Batavi and the Roman Empire. Heidevolk shows its dark serious side, and is more of a pagan metal band than a folk metal band on Batavi. The violin we heard on previous albums only appears in Wapenbroeders and Veleda. Other than that, the band uses pure metal laden with good riffs.
The first thing you see is, of course, the artwork. On the first three albums, the artwork showed a landscape while Batavi shows a blooded mask. Darker, and a change parallel to the one heard in the music. Fans will recognize Heidevolk as their band, but things are not as cheerful as before. There are fewer sing-along parts (be it a "hohohoho" as in Saksenland or a catchy chorus as the one in Nehalennia). One may think I'm telling nonsense as the album takes of with such a moment, but that is one of the very few exceptions. But I do not miss those moments, because the atmosphere on the album cancels the need for them. But it has to be said that Dutch speaking fans may be able to pick up a few lines throughout the album.
The music is melodic but definitely harder and darker than any of the older songs. There are some surprisingly pounding moments to be found, for example Als de Dood Weer naar Ons Lacht, and these moments can go hand in hand with some more melancholic tunes (the wonderful Wapenbroeders, all the more in combination with the lyrics about leaving one's land).
The vocals deserve some extra attention, as they are excellent on Batavi. Singers Mark Splintervuyscht and Joris Boghtdrincker use a firm but very clear voice and never turn to screams or grunts, except for a rare wordless shout. Because of this clear vocals, the lyrics gain in importance and it becomes even more easy for the Dutch speaking listener to pick up the words. The use of double vocals also allows for a better dynamic in the music, and the band can change in sound and atmosphere. In this fashion, the two voices add a more epic feel to the music, which only gains from it.
To me, Batavi is fantastic album: more pagan than folk by leaving out lighter and more cheerful songs (exception is the folk song Veleda). Heidevolk has created its darkest and hardest album to date, without transforming into another band. Fans need not fear the changes, as they are only for the better. 2012 will have to be an amazing year for metal if Batavi does not end up in my top 10.
Originally written for www.ashladan.be.
Wow! When I first listened to this album I couldn't do anything else but bask in this truly epic gift of music. I am a huge fan of folk/Viking/pagan metal and have a pretty good idea what I like and don't like in it and this album hit all the right marks. I've listened to Heidevolk for the past couple of years and I finally think they found their sound!
Now the music. Continuing a similar approach to their previous albums, I feel Batavi proves to be much more resolute and aggressive than ever before. First the vocals. I seriously can't get the vocals out of my head they are that good. The characteristic clean sound of both Heidevolk vocalists is far more superior this time around and the harmonies they produce are truly haunting and beautiful while the war chants are truly epic! Folk melodies build the foundation of each track while the guitars are dense and heavy with a nice full tone to them. Drums are tight, thundering, barbaric, and numbingly fast at some points. The production quality is next to none. There is no mud in the mix, especially with Peter Tägtgren at the mixing helm.
Kicking off the album is the song "Een Nieuw Begin", my personal favorite. A true tour de force itself, it prepares you for the folk/Viking metal album that is Batavi. Unfortunately, there are no other songs that stand out to me mainly because every other song on the album is a masterpiece, as if throwing you directly in the middle of some ancient battle between Vikings and Romans.
With music in the vein of Amon Amarth, Týr, Turisas, and Moonsorrow , it is sure to please anyone who calls themselves Viking metal fans!
Its been 2 years since the last album “Uit Oude Grond” came out, and since Heidevolk started in 2002, they have come a long way.
Every album they made was written in Dutch and their latest album “Batavi” is no exception.
The title Batavi refers to an ancient Germanic tribe that lived around the Rhine Delta, which is currently called the Netherlands. The same name is also applied to several military units employed by the Romans that were originally raised among the Batavi. The name is probably a derivation from batawjō, which means good island and refers to the region's fertility, today known as the fruit basket of the Netherlands called the Betuwe, but enough about history and trivial facts! Lets talk music!
From track one all the way to the last track, you immediately recognize the same trusty Heidevolk sound that made the band well-known and brought them success! After listening to the album, we did noticed that the album itself is a bit darker and stronger than what we are used to from them, especially for folk metal standards. If you listen closely, it also contains lots of doom, black and heavy metal references. Is that bad? Hell no! In our opinion, it actually fits perfectly on this album. We would even go that far in saying that Heidevolk captured their energetic and the engaging aspect they have on stage very well on this cd, something we personally think was never too well captured on earlier cds and is, as many bands know, very difficult to do. But you can only make that decision if you have seen the band perform live, I guess.
So my final opinion? Just buy it. Don’t think about it and buy the album. You won’t regret it. It’s a great album in which the band can be very proud of!
Originally written by me on Vikingblood.net, but shared it here as well.