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Norvhar - Kauna - 89%

Edmund Sackbauer, May 13th, 2020
Written based on this version: 2019, CD, Independent (Digipak, Limited edition)

Norvhar are a melodic death/folk metal band from Switzerland, and while “Kauna” is listed as EP I think it is fair to call it their debut album. Seven tracks and forty minutes of music is what you get, and this is really an epic journey. Attacking with two guitars, a keyboard and a flute there is no chance for boredom.

The record starts with the typical spoken words intro, which leads into the first real track “Fest in Midgard” shortly after. The combination of rhythm and lead guitars is one of the big highlights here as the balance between straight rocking chords and captivating harmonies is nearly flawless. Short soloing parts are used to interconnect the different sections of the songs. Often tracks are completely slowed down with ambient and folky moments building the bridge to the next riff assault lending the whole music an additional layer.

Of course names like Wintersun or Ensiferum are not far away when talking about such kind of music. However, Norvhar are not denying their influences. Starting from the colors of the great looking cover it is obvious that the band had no intention of reinventing the wheel, but just wanted to create a thrilling album that is fun from start to finish. Some of the hooks and harmonies are absolutely captivating, making this album a great fit for working out or driving in the car on a nice spring day. The folky interludes are perfectly embedded within the respective songs.

Generally speaking the instrumentation is top notch with the rhythm section delivering some cool grooves. There are a few tempo and rhythm changes but nothing too sophisticated so that I never got the feeling of being disrupted. What surprised me the most while listening to “Kauna” is the professional level of the songwriting. Each of the songs has a clear structure and Norvhar managed to make the single tracks memorable without sounding too fluffy or simplistic. There is a good portion of rhythm and tempo changes but overall the songs follow a clear and stringent structure. The soloing parts and keyboard themes are well implemented and never overstay their welcome.

The growling is also great and powerful. The same can be said about the production, being crisp and powerful. None of the many details has been buried in the mix. The whole album has a very nice flow, feeling like a great story being told. Like mentioned the cover is also very cool, making the physical edition a nice addition to the collection.

Mystic Forest - 86%

Larry6990, April 27th, 2019
Written based on this version: 2019, CD, Independent (Digipak, Limited edition)

I'm a sucker for artwork depicting forests, trees, campfires, mountains, moonlit nights etc. It's why I have so many Winterfylleth CDs. Being a folk metal band from Switzerland with similarities to Finntroll and their ilk is just a secondary reason for me to buy your album. It's that cover art which forced me to depart from my money. It's splendid and fits the timbre of the music perfectly. Notice that I call Kauna an 'album' not an 'EP' as the band have labelled it. That's because there's nothing to indicate that this is an EP! No b-sides, live tracks or cover songs. Just seven cuts of brand new original material reaching nearly 40 minutes. I'm sorry Norvhar, but that's an album! And a bloody good one at that!

As previously stated, this is Swiss folk metal most definitely of the Finntroll variety; with all the oom-pah, flute melodies and troll-like vocals intact. There's really nothing to complain about regarding Norvhar's overall sound. I especially admire Matt Favrr's wholesome roars which have absolutely no volume control. All loud, all the time. Love it. Guitar tones are thick, meaty and are just as effective when giving the polka-style off-beats as they are grinding away with beefy riffage. Considering this is folk metal, the riff set is surprisingly strong. The instant hit stylings of "Of Stone, Gold And Blood" may cover all necessary aspects of the sub-genre, but at the 3:44 mark is pounds away with a chunky breakdown complete with clanking chains and anvils. A for-sure highlight!

I suppose the most impressive thing about this record is its storytelling characteristic. Beginning with some (genuinely impressive) narration in an atmospheric intro entitled "From Fire...", then closing with a haunting lament in a conclusion entitled "...To Ashes" was a superb way to bookend the album. Everything in between flows like a well-written demented fairytale. Both "Fest In Midgard" and "Of Stone, Gold And Blood" are up-tempo folk metal jigs full of debauchery and hoil. The more subdued and quirky "Mystic Forest" provides us with a sudden gear-change; not only through its amazing pizzicato string introduction, but also the alarming 'Wait, what's that?!' section. From here on, things only get more expansive and less whimsical. More 'serious', if you will.

"Goblin's Outpost" is a beautifully structured song with an eerie mystical vibe. The progressive tinges in the songwriting let it stand out and make it easily my favourite cut on the disc. Then, the epic "Fields Of Fate" lets proceedings grow to a mighty climax before the ghostly outro. This ten-minute journey covers Ensiferum-esque melodies performed in a Moonsorrow-esque manner. So many peaks and valleys, especially 8 and a half minutes in, where it turns into headbang-heaven. Overall, Kauna is a mighty effort for newcomers like Norvhar, but their effortless control over their chosen style bodes well for the future. This is an addictive, immersive experience and I keep coming back for more! Just...please don't call it an EP!

Great, But Not Awesome - 67%

KanisMaximus, March 3rd, 2019
Written based on this version: 2019, CD, Independent (Digipak, Limited edition)

Rising from the ashes of the long-stagnant band Harmoniks, Norvhar’s first EP, Kauna, is a promising beginning. It’s vibrant, epic, and folk to the core. Norvhar’s sound is in the same realm as bands like Equilibrium and Ensiferum. The vocals are rough but the instruments deliver a bright and uplifting sound. There’s no shortage of tankard-raising tunes and the band is relatively tight for this kind of music.

There aren’t many guitar solos in Kauna, but the bouncy guitar melodies and lively traditional instrumentals make up for that. It’s honestly better that way, because guitar solos don’t always have a place in folk metal, and it’s great that these guys recognize that. The few on the release are short and sweet, and don’t steal the show too much, which makes for a greater appreciation of the band as a whole.

I’m not crazy about the spoken parts of the record, which encompass short parts throughout as well as the entirety of the introductory and final tracks. They just don’t contribute much to the album and seem to be used mainly for filler. But, maybe I’m missing something.

There aren’t a ton of wow moments, but there are a few sections that stick out to me. ‘Goblins’ Outpost’ hits hard and heavy, and the contrast with the bells throughout is a really nice touch. The ten minute ‘Fields of Fate’ has a lot of variety packed into it, beginning soft and light but also pounding out some of the heaviest parts on the whole damn album (especially around the halfway point).

If you’re looking for some more epic folk metal to add to your collection, Norvhar should definitely be on that list. There’s a fair amount of dynamism in its short runtime (less than half an hour if you don’t include the spoken songs), but I found myself slightly unsatisfied. Nonetheless, this is a pretty good EP and is worth checking out!

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