Register Forgot login?

© 2002-2019
Encyclopaedia Metallum

Best viewed
without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
or higher.

Privacy Policy

Lose Yourself In The Forest... - 85%

Larry6990, February 3rd, 2014

As it turns out, Russia has quite a big market for folk metal. Bands like Arkona and Butterfly Temple have broken out and gained a slightly wider audience than was first expected of them - but Russian folk metal certainly has carved its own niche in the genre, with a charming sound that can only be described as 'unique' (yes, folk metal...unique...I said it).

Upon this readily fertilized music scene steps Beer Bear. I'll admit, the name alone caught my attention. As did the stunning artwork which you will find pasted all over the CD booklet. Each track on this debut comes with an illustration next to the lyrics, helping to give the listener a picture of what the music is portraying. Considering "Мёд" ("Honey") is a concept album, this is indeed a benefit - especially as you begin to marvel at just how fantastic the images are.

When I say 'concept album', I mean that "Honey" is telling the story of a day in the life of some sort of magical forest. Bears rule, foxes play flutes, all the woodland creatures drink alcoholic honey and general merriment occurs (the brilliant album cover tells you all you need to know). It may sound childish, but it comes across as more playful. And, upon initial listening, becomes strangely addictive and immersive.

After the obligatory nature-themed intro (representing the start of the day in the forest) - the listener is treated to 5 tracks of up-tempo, beer-swilling folk metal of very high quality. The band's main influence is clear right from the opening verse of the band's title song. Good ol' Finntroll really made their mark on this genre, and Beer Bear are clearly big fans! The black metal-esque growls come right out of 'Jaktens Tid' territory, and the authentic folk instruments are all there: viola, flute, mouth harp etc. Yet, somehow, Beer Bear manage to create their own sound, rather than become simple Finntroll clones. The vocalist's growls are indeed impressive, but he tends to lose power and melody when singing cleanly (luckily there is the very admirable female vocalist who pops her head in occasionally).

The first 6 tracks represent the morning/afternoon life in the forest. It is here we witness the playful activities that occur between the woodland creatures, such as drinking ("Honey"), play-fighting ("Fisticuffs") and scaring away unwanted humans ("Beer Bear"). The music and artwork accompany these themes brilliantly and you will find yourself slowly immersing yourself in this fairytale world.

Track 7, the short instrumental "Twilight" shifts the mood completely as we are told, through atmospheric soundscapes, that the sun has set and night has fallen over the forest - paving the way for the latter half of the album. The following 4 tracks have a completely different atmosphere. Whereas the first 6 tracks were all up-tempo, galloping folk metal jigs; the brooding, and often epic, nature of these succeeding songs paint a much darker picture of the happy-go-lucky woods we have become accustomed to.

Now we are shown what occurs in the forest after sundown. Tales of ancient winds blowing across moonlit lakes ("Northern Wind's Call"), hunters who attack under cover of night ("Mother Bear"), a lone blacksmith who forges steel at the foot of the mountains ("The Smith & The Sword"), and strange nocturnal plants which steadily grow in the darkness ("Soporific Herb"). These songs almost double the length of those in the first half of the album - and display a prolific songwriting ability which is far more mature than would have first been thought (think along the lines of Korpiklaani's "With Trees"). Rounding off the story is a third short atmospheric instrumental entitled "Wine of the Dawn", which provides the listener with a picture of the sun rising on the forest as the woodland creatures begin to clink together their first pints of honey of the day. It's a truly fitting end to a finely-told tale.

On my version of the CD, there is an excellent cover of Finntroll's anthemic "Trollhammeren" as a bonus track, which is worth the price of the album alone. You can think of this as the first activity of the next day in the magical forest! (At least I do...maybe I'm getting a little TOO immersed in this...)

Forget crystal-clear production and crowd-pleasing anthems, this is an album made by a band who clearly wanted to create something for themselves. "Honey" is a piece of art made by artists who are passionate about their music, and not about making big bucks. Simply immerse yourself in the world they've created, grab a beer and dance a metal jig with some imaginary bears - unless you're lucky enough to have real bears.

Highlights - "Beer Bear", "Honey", "Northern Wind's Call", "Mother Bear"

For fans of - Finntroll, Korpiklaani, Heidevolk