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Seeking the route to Thule - 90%

Felix 1666, February 22nd, 2015
Written based on this version: 1996, CD, No Colours Records

Falkenbach´s debut was published by No Colours Records. This company was - and still is - blamed for being politically incorrect. Quite apart from the fact that it does not take much in Germany to be confronted with this reproach, Falkenbach itself was never a political band up until now. Its lyrics were inspired by the Nordic mythology. Who cares? I am sure you can be fascinated by this matter without feeling the need to worship the movement of Adolf Hitler. Thus, let us have a close look at the music itself.

Falkenbach showcased harsh up-tempo numbers such as the opener and "Laeknishendr" as well as hymnal epics like "Heathenpride". Both kinds of songs possessed the right degree of currishness. While demonstrating a keen sense for archaic melodies, lone wolf Vratyas Vakyas was always aware of the necessity of heavy guitars. Additionally, rather unusual instruments, for example a tambourine, were also used occasionally. But in general terms, these instruments did not characterise the sound of the full-length. The only exception was a panpipe that showed up in the highly exciting instrumental "Ásum ok álfum nær...". While offering an ingenious melody, its fragile tones contrasted with the comparatively heavy guitars in an impressive manner. Finally, I have to mention the well included keyboards which additionally intensified the atmosphere of the song.

It took only six days to record and mix the album. In view of this short period, the sound was very remarkable. All instruments, with the exception maybe of the bass guitar, appeared powerfully in the right light. The dense sound strengthened the massiveness of the compositions. To put it in a nutshell, the production gave no reason to concern. The vigorous voice of Vratyas was another plus point of the full-length. His nagging struck the right tone and the same applied to his clear vocals. However, the voice did not have a dominant role. The broad instrumental soundscapes represented the most fascinating feature of this debut.

Despite or perhaps precisely because of the fact that the melodies were rather simply constructed, they left its mark because of having a long term effect. Although the songs showed a tiny tendency towards repetitiveness, they did not lack of diversity. In addition, they were vivid and suspenseful. Their average length of six minutes did not lead to monotony. Quite the opposite, the songs caught your attention during the entire work. With a melancholic guitar line, the album came to its end. "...into the Ardent Awaited Land..." marked the last of seven high quality tracks. Vratyas had successfully proven his musicianship. But this debut marked only his first step to Thule. His goal was far from being attained. The journey had only just begun.

The glorious transition. - 97%

hells_unicorn, April 23rd, 2013

The 90s was quite a dark time for metal, not only in the sense that its lighter forms had suffered commercial setbacks due to the upsurge of interest in grunge and pop punk, but also in its evolution from the underground of 80s extreme thrash metal. One of the viler takes on this approach was spearheaded by Bathory and Venom, ushering in a bleak and cold character that eventually took on the form of black metal. Arguably, Falkenbach could be seen as the next evolutionary rung on the ladder after Quorthon's famed project, taking elements of the rawness and fury of "Blood Fire Death" and also accounting for the greater melodic and Viking sensibilities of "Hammerheart", all the while still being easily lumped in with the explosion of 2nd wave black metal affiliates outside of Norway and Sweden. And while to this day the persona of Falkenbach is still mysterious and not quite as known as the likes of Enslaved or Satyricon, its historical importance is at least as auspicious.

Circa 1996 when "...En Their Medh Riki Fara..." was released, the still burgeoning folk/viking metal style was not nearly as widespread, and much of the pioneering work towards it found in various demo releases out of Windir and Suidakra were heavily steeped in the black metal classicisms of the time. Truth be told, this album is just as much an atmospherically enriched black metal experience after the mold of "Nemesis Divina" and "In The Nightside Eclipse" as it is a folksy affair, playing off a similarly fuzz-driven to the point of being post-rock guitar sound and a symphonic keyboard background. Similarly the shrieked vocals take on a high-pitched, orcish timbre that is pretty close to the chilling screams of Ihsahn. These relatively stylized by still very fresh sounding ideas pervade much of the album, which is built largely of longer songs with an elaborate array of contrasting sections that mirrors the epic character of both Emperor's early songwriting approach as well as the long-winded musical quests heard on Bathory's Viking era albums.

Where things take on a rather interesting twist is when the black metal influences give way a bit for the extras that were not quite infused into the sounds of the more Viking oriented crowd at this juncture. Frequent usage of droning folk lines played either on acoustic guitars or an assortment of wind instruments (primarily pan pipes) comes along for the ride, often time bringing a lighter character to what otherwise sounds like music fit for the black forests depicted in early Immortal offerings. Similarly, clean sung folk chants occur with a fair level of frequency, not all that dissimilar from those employed on Enslaved's "Eld", which would not be released until the following year. Perhaps the biggest contrast with most of the early 2nd wave crowd is a strong scaling back of the thrash and blast beats that were emphasized to the point of cliche on early Mayhem and Immortal releases, resulting in something that has more of a rocking yet atmospheric quality to it, not all that dissimilar from the early works of Burzum, though not quite as dirty and low-fi.

But the greatest charm of this album is its utter simplicity, in spite of the multifaceted character that it exhibits. Even the long stream of ideas that is "Asum Ok Alfum Naer" takes its time to really bring out the strength of the folk theme featured in the pan flute while switching up the guitars a bit here and there, but never veering away from its contemplative character. This is something that is quite accessible to newcomers of black metal, yet definitely not rooted in the commercial pomp and polish that tends to be associated with a growing number of popular black metal acts at present, nor the power metal-like heroism found in mainline folk acts such as Turisas or Tyr. But most of all, "...En Their Medh Riki Fara..." is a grower, and continues to be interesting after being heard multiple times. In much the same vein as the early black metal greats, this is a sure classic that will fit in nicely alongside the likes of Enslaved and Emperor's early offerings, yet also marks an important fork in the road from which we now have the likes of Moonsorrow.

The first battle... - 94%

CHRISTI_NS_ANITY8, January 21st, 2009

The myth of Falkenback was born, incredibly, at the end of the 80s, but just in 1996 he achieved the goal of releasing the very first full-length, ...En Their Medh Riki Fara.... Basically, everything started here. Falkenback enters officially in the large world of music and they did it with a blast. This album already displayed the melodies we could find on higher doses on the following albums. ...En Their Medh Riki Fara.... is a bit more black metal oriented but the “bases” are clearly shown and present. If ...Magni Blandinn Ok Megintiri... develops its melodies through the keyboards, here everything is rawer and more direct in style and attitude.

Since the opener, “Galdralag” we can notice that the main melody is done by the guitars and the keyboards are just utilized on the background to add a sense of a dark, epic touch. The composition passes through rawer moments to jump into others that point more on the atmosphere. The guitars are more present here than on the following album and the loud distortion completes a blacker scenario. Even the vocals are far more screamed and almost on perennial shriek. The main influences can be seen in bands like early Enslaved or even Manes for the weird passages and the dark atmosphere, but without those weird or astral overtures.

“Heathenpride” is the very first, complete example of paganism in music for this album. The vocals are clear and the choirs are just amazing. The keyboards are far more present here and they do not simply sustain the guitars but the take the main role to let the epic touches emerge. The tempo is far less impulsive and the drums sustain the epic melodies of the first part, setting on a mid-paced progression. When the shrieks enter, the atmosphere turns to be gloomier and truly black even if the tempo is still unvaried and we can notice the choirs’ comeback on some parts. This song turns to be even greater when Falkenback finds that folk melody in the middle.

“Læknishendr” is far more black metal oriented with some up tempo by the drums and the primitive work by the guitars. The intermezzos are a bit more epic, awaiting the clean arpeggios by a classic guitars and the medieval atmosphere it brings. The vocals remain shrieky and they perfectly clash with the melodies. The restart is full of long, keyboards notes and the nastiness of the guitars. “Ultima Thule” has a massively dark beginning with strong Hades (Nor) influences! The weirdness of these parts is perfectly mixed with Viking choirs and sudden melodic breaks where the clean guitars notes are here again. The atmosphere is truly apocalyptic, dark and epic at the same time.

“Asum Ok Alfum Naer...” is a track that points more on the pure epic touch of the keyboards on few parts to let the classic black metal elements come out during the other ones. The main purpose is once again to create a solid, massive black metal base under the sound of the keyboards that bring the melody. The tempo is always like a march. You can clearly imagine a Drakkar in the open sea or in a fiord. The sound of a coming storm, the winds and the nature are with us. “Winternight” is pure Bathory style and this is great. The black metal is more present but the tempo remains martial. The style follows the ones on …The Return album, more or less. The primordial burden of this song is incredible and actually very good to break a bit the epic feeling.

The last “...Into the Ardent Awaited Land...” has a quite raw guitars part at first but when the choirs enter, we change the atmosphere once more. We return to high quality epic feelings and almost nobody can beat Falkenback on this field, closing a great debut. Everything was already displayed and the heavier burden of black elements is very good too to make the atmospheres collide together. All in all, this is an excellent album to start your journey through the epic adventures side by side with Falkenback.


“When a lightning strikes with pride
and a thunder roars upon us,
when the trees will be beckoned by their dew again
the icecold mist shows us our way...”

First steps upon a path unfolding! - 100%

Shadow0fDeath, August 28th, 2004

Falkenbach is one of the most defining bands in the entire viking metal genre. With the use of clean and harsh vocals kept it a pattern that allows the music to flow, norse majestic theme powers pulling you into it's grasp i don't believe there is any greater creation in metal apart from falkenbach. En their Medh Riki Fara... is the perfect most defining album to capture the viking sound.

The album ranges from all varieties of it's own powerful musical assault. With tracks as Laeknishendr which focuses on the darker spirits and colder elements of black metal to the more folkish melodies of heathenpride this Falkenbach release is one you don't want to miss out on. It's so powerful as each song suffocates you with majesty, darkness, and occasionally a folk type acoustic guitar will fill your ears with a really interesting and medieval sound to it.

Also a lot more woodwind and folk elements are used on this release apart from the successors of En Their Medh Riki Fara. With flutes that chime mystical melodys into you, and the mix of lighter guitar playing mixed with the raw sound of black metal this release is one you can't miss out on! It'll be a masterpiece you'll continue to listen to. With a lot more black metal chemistry flowing through this release it will also be a great treat to the black metallers who have slight interest in the viking and melodic folk aspects of the music as well.

The album feels as if you reached the shores of iceland after a long hard journey on cold oceans, with the frost winds ripping into your face as you destroy the nearby villages. Total war in the name of Odin and Thor sweeps through this album. A must have for those passionate about black/viking/folk metal!

This is how the one-man legend was born! - 98%

Wikingus, August 16th, 2004

I was one of the luckiest bastards of this years Wacken Open Air when I spotted one of the original first Falkenbach albums on the last day. Even though I had already spent a fortune on beer and stuff, I decided that I'm not leaving Wacken without this masterpiece.

How damn smart of me! I've known this album for a long time, but it was just impossible for me to get it anywhere.
This is the real deal. This is THE viking metal, ladies and gents. The booklet is shoddy and in black and white, but the CD has a nice cover.

Now for the songs!

-Galdralag; an instrumental song, great power.

-Heathenpride; My favorite song on this album, starts with excellent clean vocals, telling of a story of christian men coming to the lands of the North, plundering and raping. The other half of the song is much faster and Vratyas uses some nice black vocals to tell the story of heathen revenge.

-Laeknishendr; The song that basically defines early Falkenbach. Not the best production, really nasty vocals and mysterious lyrics. Not to mention how melodic this is! Great stuff!

-Ultima Thule; The second best song on the CD. It only has two stanzas, but it's just so melodic that you can't get it out of your head for hours.

-Asum Ok Alfum Naer; a good sort of Normanic instrumental song with bagpipes

-Winternight; Probably the most powerful song of the whole release. Unrelenting, fast and furious.

-Into The Ardent Awaited Land; Saddest song on the album, this piece of absolute poetry tells a slow story, in clean vocals. Almost puts me into a trance. Rerecorded on the new album, but I like the old version better. Dunno, probably because of the cruder production :)

Anyway, metal history in your CD player. Calling this simply a masterpiece would not do it justice, not by a long shot. Listen to it, and discover the world of Falkenbach.