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Perfect romantic and progressive folk metal - 100%

larsen, June 4th, 2017
Written based on this version: 2009, 2CD, Trollzorn Records

If you don't know about Menhir and just read their musical style on the Metal Archives, you could think that it's pagan black metal. But what is exactly pagan black metal? In fact, it's simply black metal with lyrical themes referring to some pagan sagas and topics. It's quite large and could include many different styles of music, though the first bands which might cross your mind are Graveland or Arkona. Menhir doesn't have anything to do with these two aforementioned bands, especially not on their latest release "Hildebrandslied". This unfortunately underrated band started playing rather "typical" (if I can call it like this) pagan metal, meaning some very melodic black metal, with an epic touch and a mix between clean and harsh vocals. While it doesn't really look special, from the very beginning they played inspired songs. The song structure and musical level was however quite conventional. This German band improved very fast and if we can argue that most bands lost their spirit by switching from their black metal roots to softer tunes, it's definitely the opposite which happened to Menhir.

Release after release, this band became more mature and managed to bring some new elements to create their own sound, which is a real achievement worth mentioning it. However, the black metal roots were almost ripped off. The last effort of this German band is sad, melancholic and simply beautiful music consisting in almost progressive metal, blend with folk and symphonic music. The first song immediately reveals an excellent technical level and wonderful guitar solos, which wouldn't have been denied even by the best specialists of the 70's rock and hard rock era. These progressive elements are mixed with some additional harmonies performed via the keyboard, an amazingly good singer, a powerful yet various drummer and a crystal clear production. Some parts with violins are used throughout the album and reinforce the beauty and sadness of the music.

It's in fact quite easy. When you listen to this album, you have the impression that every single detail was thought. The highlight remains the first part of the "Hildebrandslied". This song alone is already a masterpiece which will stay in your mind for decades. You can"t forget such a song. It contains such a deep atmosphere. Altogether, I would say that this album might only disappoint close minded people looking exclusively for rough black metal or minimalist pagan metal, but if you are just a bit more open, you'll understand that Menhir went much further with this album. It combines so many different elements, including some few rare fiery passages. If you prioritize inspired music with a deep romantic approach, this album is for you. You shouldn't miss it. Indeed, it can please fans of almost all the sub-genres of metal and even of regular rock or opera. The atmosphere which comes out of this album is just sensational and unforgettable. It has something romantic and folk at the same time. It enables you to travel through the ancient German sagas from the first to the last note. It has nothing to do with the horde of goofy bands which decided to release an album just a few days after having discovered how to turn on their casio keyboard. Menhir are professional in all the possible senses of the word.

Only few bands playing a similar style came immediately across my mind after the first listening of this album. However, those who appreciate Enid, another German band, should definitely love this album. Enid is clearly the closest band to Menhir. This album was re-released later in a 2 cd edition with the band's first demo entitled : "Barditus". It enables the listener to get a bonus, to enjoy both releases and to see the evolution and improvement.