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One of these days I’ll open a folk metal review without banging on about how there’s suddenly too damn much of the stuff going around, or how there are too many bands writing to too simple a formula. Not this day, though. Because, just in case I haven’t made my case clear enough, there is just too much folk metal out there to get through without getting completely burned out on the whole idea. Indeed, I was originally planning to review this CD several months ago, but I had to put it on the back burner for a while for fear of taking out my frustrations on the subgenre as a whole on Tersivel, and didn’t want to end up pulling them up for faults that weren’t necessarily their own.
Good thing too, as this full-length debut is a remarkably fresh-sounding way to spend an hour of your time, and breathes the character that many of their contemporaries are lacking. Maybe it’s something to do with their homeland of Argentina being almost literally half the world away from the choked European network of Spinefarm and Napalm package tours. In their less cluttered surroundings, where bagpiping speed metallers Skiltron and the Tolkien-loving Tengwar (with whom they used to share a couple of members) have been making a positive impression over the last couple of years, Tersivel sound less like a product with a target market and more like a genuine creative force.
A sweeping variety of styles across the songs make the 58 minutes of music rush past in an enthralling blur, and although a couple of weak points here and there (one rather glaring, more on that later) don’t quite hit the mark on the whole the variation is matched with consistency of quality. The fact that vocal duties are split almost evenly between the 2 guitarists is a big contributing factor - Lian Gerbino’s main singing voice is resonant and commanding, while the screams of Nicolás Närgrath are brutal but controlled, and between them they also perform in a handful of other styles that make it sound like there’s a lot more than 2 voices on show.
The title, ‘For one pagan brotherhood’ offers a bit of insight into Tersivel’s philosophy, as they pack a lot of different types of folk music into the 12 songs here, and seem to be celebrating the entire folk/pagan/viking/whatever thing for all it is worth. There are no prizes for guessing which country’s music is celebrated on the manic instrumental “Tarantella Siciliana”, while the metalled-up retelling of the traditional song “High Germany” is calming and romantic sidestep form some of the more forceful efforts to follow.
For all the mucking around in folk music, Tersivel don’t forget the importance of building foundations though, and what solid bloody rocks these songs are built on. When they get heavy, they can mix it with the best of them, the drums pounding with timed precision or blastbeating like no tomorrow when the time is right, and the meaty guitar tone packs a mighty punch.
Yet for all the authentic-sounding folk music in the mix, much of the songs are propelled by thundering symphonic arrangements that are reminiscent of Turisas in their earlier days. With orchestral programming becoming increasingly impressive and hard to tell apart from the real thing, it’s oddly a bit of a welcome shift to hear a band still utilising hissing keyboard sounds instead, and they are used in such a successful fashion that it never sounds like a cheap knock-off. Key player Franco Robert has a lot more to his game than just synth bombing though, and gets to show his chops as a pianist on several occasions, leading the songs a merry dance with his dextrous tinkling and adding an extra layer of class to proceedings.
Amongst all the winning moments though, the song “Cosa nostra” is a bit of a stinker, with both vocalists sounding pretty ridiculous as they draw out a protracted call-and-response in silly voices (hampered even further by one deeply distasteful lyric) and even the decent chorus can’t rescue this lame duck.
When they get on with the main business of bombarding symphonic folk metal attacks though, Tersivel are a well-oiled flying machine, and one damp squib among the wild and wonderful approaches on ‘For one pagan brotherhood’ is a forgivable offence. Both a stirring debut and another bullseye for the gradually expanding Argentinian folk metal battalion, it is a success not only in its own right but also as a tonic for the oversaturated movement as a whole.
(Originally written for http://www.metalcdratings.com/)