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Cân Bardd > Devoured by the Oak > Reviews
Cân Bardd - Devoured by the Oak

A journey through the forest - 81%

reaper64, May 23rd, 2022

Looking back at the evolution of the different subgenres of metal, it becomes very easy to construct grand narrative. Whether they are accurate or not is rarely the question as their purpose is rather to provide an intuition rather than facts. One of these narratives is that the black metal genre emerged in response to the ever increasing focus on speed, technicality and heavyness displayed by death metal and grindcore. So, as the narrative goes, in the late 80s/early 90s, black metal emerged as a cohesive genre and immeadiatly started dissassociating itself from its death metal brethen. Not only was the the guitar sound widly different, focusing rather on a very high trebly guitar tone contrary to the low tune heavy distorted sound prefered by their Floridian counterpart, but the imaging and themes were also quite at odds with one another.

While they both had the theme of trangression in common, black metal expressing it through anti-christian themes while death metal focusing rather on violence and gore, death metal still stayed quite modern in its thematic approach. Black metal, on the other hand, embraced nature, a romanticism of the past and a longing for a bygone era, mostly expressed through viking themes.While this artifact of the 90s and early 2000s did help forge the identities of both genre, there still remains, up to this date, a strong thematic relation. These themes have however evolved and adapted with time.

This brings us to Cân Bardd’s latest album, Devoured by the Oak. Being quite honest and deliberate in his approach, Malo Civelli, the mastermind behind the project, has mentionned several times that his music is influenced by the likes of Summoning, Caladan Brood, Saor and the Russian atmospheric black metal sound led by the likes of Elderwind, Grima and Путь (Put). These influences go farther than simply a similar sound. Indeed, nature is central not only in lyrical matters and cover art but also in the soundscape used throughout the album.

To further illustrate this point, the first song of the album, Echoes of the Moss, is an ambient piece incorporating multiple sound from nature, immediately transporting the listener to a quite serene and lush environment. The sixth song, Spleen by the Pond, has a similar approach, focusing heavily on atmosphere. This nature driven atmospheric approach is also present in a number of interludes in songs such as Une Couronne de Branches and Devoured By the Oak Pt. 1 and Pt. 2.

What sets Cân Bardd’s music apart from the Epic/Atmospheric black metal scene though, is its approach to the dynamism in its music. In fact, while Summoning, Caladan Brood and Saor would tend to slowly and methodically build up the dynamism in their music, as if their song were focused on storytelling, Cân Bardd focuses rather on dynamic change to imbue a sense of urgency not too uncommon to modern epic melodic death (the likes of Wintersun and Ensiferum). It could be theorized that this juxtaposition of calm, peaceful and serene ambient interlude with the loud, bombastic and frantic black metal sections is meant to express the very modern of idea of the destruction of nature. This has indeed been explored quite openly in the past by bands such as Finsteforst and Moonsorrow, both of whom have noticeable musical similarities to Cân Bardd.

Devoured by the Oak is not so much a work of trangression or innovation, but rather the refinement of the epic sound achieved on Cân Bardd’s previous record, The Last Rain. In fact, Malo has not only improved his harsh vocal’s range (as showcased in Crépuscule), but the band has also mastered the ability to mix clean choir like vocals to harsh black metal shriek. Folk instruments are used to reinforce the thematic coherence of the albums and works very well in blending itself in this epic/atmospheric black metal sound. The druming in the album is frantic, energetic and quite technical at times. The mixing and mastering does put the drum quite up front showcasing how important the druming pattern is key in the transitions from introspective to explosive.

The album ebbs and flows beautifully, giving the feeling that the album is perhaps comprised of two to three songs instead of the listed eight. This can work to Cân Bardd’s advantage in easily enthralling the listener into a 57 minutes long journey through the forest. However, this ebb and flow also makes it so individual tracks may be difficult to distinguish from one to the other. While the second tack, Une Couronne de Branches does feel like a fully fleshed out song with a definite beginning and end, the same cannot be said for the transition from Devoured by the Oak to Crépuscule and to Spleen by the Pond/Autumn Shore. By the end of the record it does somewhat feel as though all these songs were a continous soundtrack. It may have been Malo’s explicit purpose, but it does make it so individual tracks, or sections, or not as memorable as they were in The Last Rain.

While Devoured by the Oak is quite the adventure and will certainly mesmorize more than a few, there’s still some elements which are missing from the record to make it go from an interesting journey to a full blown memorable one. That being said, Cân Bardd still has an interesting future ahead of themselves and I recommend the record for anybody interested in Atmospheric/Epic black metal.

A Fresh Dose of Epic Blackened Folk Metal - 85%

kluseba, December 17th, 2021
Written based on this version: 2021, Digital, Independent (Bandcamp)

Cân Bardd is a Swiss duo supported by two live musicians on stage that plays epic blackened folk metal in the key of Summoning, Saor and Caladan Brood. For those uninformed, this means that the band values atmosphere over diversity and fleshes out immersive, intense and rather slow-paced tunes about fantasy and nature that are on average seven minutes long and occasionally break the ten-minute mark.

This type of music needs a little time to unfold and break the ice. Instrumental opener ''Echoes of the Moss'' could come from the soundtrack of a fantasy video game and evokes many images on your mind but is musically unspectacular and might drag on for a little bit too long.

Once the band kicks off its longer tunes with unchained black metal vocals however, it reaches another level. ''Une couronne de branches'' has the atmosphere of the opening instrumental combined with the intensity of the menacing vocals and takes ten and a half minutes to develop a mysterious atmosphere that is absolutely timeless.

''Crépuscule'' is even more intense in that regard with more dynamic changes and liberating black metal passages that complement the introspective folk sounds and ambient elements spendidly.

For those who are looking for a more melodic and harmonious approach, they should certainly appreciate the excellent ''Autumn Shore'' that should equally please regular folk metal fans and those who like atmospheric black metal. The folk instrumentation is domineering, playful and rich here while the vocals sound like a howling storm thrashing through an isolated forest. Melodic choirs enhance the immersive atmopshere even better towards the majestic conclusion of this particular masterpiece.

The closing ''Blomsterkransen'' comes as a welcome surprise as it turns out to be a smooth lullaby focusing on acoustic guitar and violin sounds crowned by enchanting female vocals performed in Swedish. This stunning closer is certainly the record's hidden gem and makes you want to experience the entire record all over again.

Cân Bardd's Devoured by the Oak is one of the greatest folk metal records of the year and unfolds its magic further with every single spin. Some people might argue that the band's style isn't exactly new but similar bands haven't released any new material in many years. This is why it's great to get a fresh new dose of blackened folk metal with inspired concepts and atmospheric depth. The band already performs on the same level as those who inspired it and might deserve even more attention and recognition in the future.