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Pillaging Villagers > Pillaging Villagers > Reviews
Pillaging Villagers - Pillaging Villagers

Marauding Viking Raid Reversal - 72%

CHAIRTHROWER, May 28th, 2022
Written based on this version: 2022, Digital, Independent (Bandcamp)

As latest, digitally olive branched wrist merchant to hear from David Frazer, in Milwaukee towne yonder, regarding self's folksy thrash solo venture, Pillaging Villagers, must put Saturday morning Xbox session aside in view of solicitated feedback on said titular pastiche of festive hair raisers, which span a dozen congruous offerings over close to forty minutes.

At first monochromatic glance, vestigial musings of comparatively spartan artwork ensue i.e. Gwar's 1988 opening salutation, Hell-O! and, much more recently, Land of Lincoln tater musher Smash Potater's equally track rich Suburban Legends. Such visual reckoning ends once the bearded one flexes his muscular grip on first of many similarly harried and fast, oft whimsically embellished, stew-y missives, "Wretched Of The Earth", which even features some kind of bag pipe sounding synths, alongside joyous gang cries coming in stark contrast to Dave's alternately psycho and gruff shouts.

At further extreme, "We Remember" takes off with sordidly vampiric keys reminiscent of Denmark's Raunchy and its Wasteland Discotheque affair from 2008. Except for lengthy mid point dirge "The Crisis", which tops in at whopping eight and a minutes, tracks hover around three minute mark, yet due to unwavering tempo, it's only thanks to brief pauses in between that we can tell them apart, or when one begins while the other ends.

Speaking of Gwar, Dave's grouchily cartoonish vocals on "The Emperor" possess Oderus Urungus's off kilter and unsettling, chomping flair. (Uncouthly, OU's band mates, at the time, presented his ashen remains to grieving father in a cheap plastic Glad sandwich bag with "VISA" pasted across. Hence, "credit" is given for both his memory and influence!)

Decidedly, there's a lot of undefinable content to unravel, meaning, it's pretty difficult to identify or retain any particular tracks; even "The Crisis" subsists as several disjointedly conjoined, rough segues, with the frantically bashing drums bringing to mind not quite man, but machine. Mind you, the keys add color to the dry, raspy riffing (which reaches an apex with its triplet based bursts on lyrically potent "Burn The Monastery"), whilst rare token leads, such as highly wrung early bird ripping up start of "Wretched Of The Earth", sound like adrenal caffeine bursts imbued with topspin, leaving us crumpled in their sickly afterglow.

Although not really my cup of tea (or tepid stadium beer in Styrofoam), Pillaging Villagers still constitutes a lofty feat, in consideration of its low number of inhabitants. Read: one gregarious sonic bush man in the urban wilderness.

Unadulterated, fun, “peasant metal” - 87%

hellzora666, May 13th, 2022

I woke up one morning with an email, from a guy I don’t know, asking me to review his album. Turns out it was from a certain Dave Frazer, vocalist, instrumentalist and composer of Pillaging Villagers. I promptly downloaded his album and started my listen. Metal-Archives described the music as crossover thrash with folk/punk influence, so it looked interesting, but it did not fully prepare me for the fun I was about to have. I would describe the main sound of this album as folk metal, but with a strong crossover thrash component. This means, shorter songs, fast paced drumming and fast palm muted riffs but with many sing along chorus and upbeat melodies. This perfect and quite unique blend results in 40 minutes of pure, unadulterated, folk metal fun! If you couldn’t already tell (by the fact I used the word fun two times already), I think this album is a just a blast from start to finish. But it’s not just that, it’s a seriously well composed and musically rich work.

The album is comprised of 12 songs on the shorter side, between two and three minutes, except for the 6th song, the crisis, which is a whopping 8 and a half minutes but more on that later. So, it all starts with Wretched of the Earth, a song with an upbeat thrashy melody that is guaranteed to pump you up. It then goes to the chorus, which is pure folk metal, complete with chanting gang vocals and a nice bagpipe or keyboard melody accompanied by strong guitar leads. The Count uses a traditional folk melody that I swear I already heard somewhere, but I cannot for the life of me remember where! Anyway, this song as a bit more of a darker, almost gothic vibe with the gloomy keyboards. Overall, it’s still catchy despite being a bit darker. The crisis starts with a slower paced melody and gets progressively faster. Being the longest song, it truly has the time to built up and create an atmosphere. It features the best solo of the album and even has a short but crushing breakdown mixed in. I don’t know if he plays his own drums, I think they might be programed. They are not the star of the album but still work well with the whole album overall.Essentially, all the riffs and melodies are catchy on this album; even in darker themed songs, you’ll have the inexplicable urge to take your pitched fork and tear down the ruling class! Vocally, he has a traditional, folk metal, scream/growl à la Ensiferum (I swear, sometime, it’s like I hear Jari Mäenpää singing) but with a lot of clean, sign along, chanting choruses. It’s safe to say Dave Frazer is a pretty great musician, he’s technical when he needs to (there is some nice guitar work and impressive solos but nothing over the top. Everything still has a punky DIY vibe.

I did not read the lyrics, but with song names like Burn the Monastery, Smash the Factory and with the fact that this was written on his bandcamp page: Unite against the right, with pitchforks high and voices to the sky! #antifa, it looks like Dave Frazer is a fellow leftist, which made me love the music even more! Another impressive thing is the production. I think it’s one of the best sounding, independent releases I ever heard. You can clearly hear every instrument.

So, to conclude, this is a great folk metal album from start to finish. It’s musically solid with such catchy riffs, awesome folk melodies and many ear worm choruses. It’s a perfect blend of pure folk metal and crossover thrash making it stand out from other folk metal. Do not skip on this album if you like folk metal, thrash metal or politicly infused metal.

Raise your horns and beers! - 80%

Paganbasque, April 10th, 2022
Written based on this version: 2022, Digital, Independent (Bandcamp)

It has been a long time since I have checked out and album tagged as ‘Crossover’. So, when I came across with Wisconsin’s solo project Pillaging Villagers, I was initially doubtful about how I could appreciate it from an objective perspective. Fortunately, I was tempted by the folk and punk influences, which I found at least interesting, but a bit risky to be sincere. Did this mixture work? Well, as usual the definitive answer later.

Pillaging Villagers is a quite novel solo-projected founded in 2020, which has come from nowhere with a quite energetic debut album. The aforementioned mix of genres could raise some eyebrows, but it works reasonably well, although the album can be at time a little bit predictable, as the pace is very similar in the majority of songs. But in all honesty, what I expect and want in this type of albums are songs which are full of energy, have straightforward strength and a riffage which makes me want to headbang with a strong bear in my hands. And believe me, this album successes in this aspect. As you may imagine, most of the songs have a quite speedy pace, thanks to the ‘straight to the point’ fierceness and punchy energy of its thrash metal and punk influences. The only exception is the longest track of the album, entitled ‘The Crisis’. This song has a bit slower pace, which in addition to its longer duration gives a greater room to introduce a wider variety in terms of composition. This is not the song which will make you love the album, but it’s a very good track and it adds a necessary diversity to this album. Furthermore, the inclusion of an organ type keyboard melody, as it also happens in the third track ‘The Count’, is a nice arrangement. The riffing is, in general terms, great, with classic riffs which are excellently executed through the whole album. They are not extremely original or complicated, but they play their role very well. One thing I would like to mention is that the guitars, as the drums and David’s excellent aggressive vocals, are very well produced. The production is clean but powerful, which is a nice surprise considering that it is a debut album. Going back to the music itself, as I have mentioned, a song like ‘The Count’ is a welcomed outsider, but the rest of the songs are way shorter and faster. I could mention a lot of them, but I especially like Pillaging Villagers music when there is an actual inclusion of folk influences, which give to the music a strong upbeat touch. The thrash/punk influences work well with these folky touches, which I think it deserves some praise. I also really like the clean-voiced choirs with a tavern twist, which appear in songs like ‘Burn the Monastery’ or the album opener ‘Wretched of the Earth’, among others. These songs are incredibly amusing, and I would really like to listen to them at a concert. I do not have the lyrics, but even if you sing about burning a monastery, or smashing a factory, the joyful melodies will make you convince the rest of the drunk people of the local pub to accompany you. Jokes apart, another standing out song is ‘Ready to Die’, with its epic and vigorous beginning and, once again, a very enjoyable inclusion of a choir and some folk influences, always led by a super powerful riffing section.

In conclusion, Pillaging Villagers has released a very solid and entertaining debut album with a strong upbeat touch in its melodies. Although variety may not be its strongest point, its peculiar mixture of genres and a very good guitar work, alongside well-performed vocals, and a top-notch production, makes this debut album a very recommendable one.

Clean boot revolution - 71%

gasmask_colostomy, April 6th, 2022

I've decided not to read the 2 previous reviews for this album and just go with my gut reaction here, so prepare for the product of a long day filled with energy drink, beer, and my cat bothering me for the last couple of hours. Yep, it's Wednesday night people, and Pillaging Villagers are on the menu (alongside roast chicken flavour crisps). I was contacted by sole member David Frazer just around the self-titled album's release date, and have so far enjoyed it a few times and also questioned myself why I wasn't enjoying it more. I have now decided on some of the reasons, but I still feel that this represents a pretty good beginning for such an ambitious solo project.

Having learned that Pillaging Villagers had a crossover thrash style with folk metal leanings, I immediately thought of Czech band Catastrofy and couldn't have been further from the truth about what awaited me on this 39 minute effort. You see, Catastrofy goofed around with their crazy split genres and Frazer goes straight for the throat with a well-developed but pretty serious theme to boot. A slightly trebly yet actually very meaty guitar tone does a lot of good for the outpouring of riffs across 12 shortish tracks on Pillaging Villagers, providing the whole listen with choppy, brisk playing and some lightning grooves, though not really in slamming crossover style. That's because the focus changes within individual songs towards more melodic folky passages, which generally reflect the greater memorability of chorus sections, plus another flavour that definitely isn't chicken crisps...more like mainstream melodic black metal of the sort popularized by Cradle Of Filth but accessible even to Skeletonwitch back in their heyday. Just to keep you on the right track, the folk parts remind me most frequently of Gwydion, who sound like Ensiferum at their more epic end and Turisas at their instantly hummable best. And I don't think I've mentioned the several appearances of the church organ yet. Maybe in a minute.

Anyway, the reason I decided to splurge all that in a single paragraph is due to Frazer prioritizing something else over that very healthy background of riffing, melodies, and fast-paced song progressions. The rhythms can probably be imagined quite accurately, but it's the vocals that dominate, in terms of coverage and of placement. You see, I'm happy to label this crossover despite nary a pulse of hardcore musical influence because the vocals butt in at every opportunity and the transitions are utterly immediate, wasting not a moment in the most punky element of the album. Or, the second most punky element, because I think the lyrical themes stand out clearly as a not-so-fantastical peasant rebellion and overthrowing of all the institutions. You can't miss that either, since the songs are named 'Burn the Monastery', 'Smash the Factory', and 'Crush the Enemy' (okay, that last one...), while the introduction sets up characters to be stripped of their power in 'The Count', 'The Bishop', and 'The Emperor'. If there were a bonus track named 'Seize the Means of Production', I wouldn't be all that surprised, but all this is not to my point: musically speaking, the message dominates the art at times. I enjoy what Frazer does with his voice, acting different parts without the cheese required for a full-on King Diamond rendition and achieving a kind of rhythmic stability from chief use of a dryish rasp, yet the riffs he's constructed just need a bit more breathing space to appreciate, which the message might benefit from too.

Call me a knobhead Nazi if you like, Pillaging Villagers errs a bit too far to the modern for my tastes. The sound is absolute crystal and the drumming emphasizes that all the more, thumping the blood around my eardrums a little painfully (I told you about my diet and I accept the blame), though I thought peasant rebellions had a bit more mud on their boots as they stormed the citadel? The 'Wretched of the Earth' seem positively cleanly in this light and even sing damn fine in unison for the choruses. I think that's why I like Pillaging Villagers and simultaneously balk at the idea of it, since the peasants ought to be a little less organized and a bit more chaotic. A case in point is 'Burn the Monastery', which I should note is one of my favourite songs, and opens with a folky melody on the keys (accordion?) that I feel is intensely familiar, then dwells for a moment on a neat thrashy lick, finally ramming the helpless priests with a punchy chorus ploy of building up the vocals to a crescendo and suddenly dropping everything out to shout the title. The choppy rhythms in the bridge help too, yet again something nags me as familiar. I guess that's another point why I find this too modern and zeitgeist-y for its musical and thematic concepts: should revolution feel familiar? Thus, despite largely pacey songwriting and frequent switches in direct, Pillaging Villagers loses much of its spontaneity by the third or fourth listen.

My greater than usual amount of complaining leaves me in a weird position as I come to judge the Pillaging Villagers' debut. On the one hand, I can't remember really hearing much that combines these sub-genres in this manner, though on the other hand I can see why too, because neither crossover nor folk are supposed to feel clinical like this does. I can imagine that fans in the US (where David Frazer lives) might react better to this than me and my cat in our apartment in China, if only because the excitement generated by the pacing and imagery matches that environment far better and suits the current metal scene well. (Me shouting out "Freedom is ours" with the last song is kind of laughable.) I am also not political in the slightest, which is a bit of a turn-off, and ironically find myself drawn to the "evil character" songs, especially 'The Count' (organ moment here) because I feel it resembles Witchery from their In His Majesty's Infernal Service period. 'The Crisis' is an important showcase too, as it proves that Pillaging Villagers isn't only about hammering riffs and peasant choirs in 3 minute bursts, although its more than 8 minutes don't coalesce into such a specific point of impact as the finest cuts here.

Call me lazy, just I think I'm done talking: this is really well-organized and listenable but artistically a hot mess - the opposite of what I usually praise.

Interesting - 75%

morbert, March 20th, 2022
Written based on this version: 2022, Digital, Independent (Bandcamp)

This album was presented to me as crossover thrash/folk metal and I was asked to write a review. Well, crossover/folk is exactly what this is.

Just don't expect anything even remotely similar to the first two Skyclad albums or an old school crossover vibe. It's more like Alestorm meets early Children of Bodom (without the flashy guitars) and a bit of Dropkick Murphys thrown in for Celtic measures. For instance 'The Count' is what Cradle of Filth would have sounded like had they been a hardcore punk band originally which results in a total Children of Bodom vibe.

To me the songs with either a catchy chorus or some melodic vocals and/or gang shouts work best, that would be songs like 'Voices In The Sky', 'Wretched of the Earth', 'Smash The Factory' and 'Burn The Monastery' to name a few. The melodic vocals however are always layered which results in the earlier mentioned Alestorm vibe but even The Toy Dolls come to mind. Not a bad thing in my book as I am a very big Toy Dolls fan.

The thing is ... the album constantly and deliberately confuses you whether it pretends to be badass or just happy / funny. The earlier mentioned 'Smash The Factory' is a great example. It is one of the best songs on the album. It's fast, furious and damn catchy but so uplifting at the same time despite a song title which could work for pretty much any old school angry punk band.

I find it an amusing and interesting album. The mixture of styles sounds fresh and entertaining but I have to admit there is a lot of room for improvement, especially compositionally as there are as many mediocre songs as there are good ones. But I also find the rough/harsh vocals a bit....too standard.

I wonder if it will be released on vinyl some day because I'd buy a copy. Is this band/project a diamond in the rough? Time will tell.

Not bad, just disappointing - 57%

Headhammer, March 19th, 2022
Written based on this version: 2022, Digital, Independent (Bandcamp)

I was really excited when I saw this album in my inbox and looked at the genres: folk metal and crossover thrash. These two are currently my favorite subgenres of metal, and this is the first time I've seen someone try to combine the two. So how well do these two genres mix? The answer: meh.

Most of the songs on this album sound the same. Start with an uncompelling riff, thrashy verse, clean chorus with bagpipes, rinse and repeat. Basically, if you've heard Dropkick Murphys, it's that but harder. As far as crossover thrash goes, this leans much more on the hardcore punk side than it does the thrash metal side.

This album does have its strengths too. David Frazer has a voice for folk metal, which is strange considering that folk metal, more than any other subgenre of metal, is defined the least by its vocals. And while the choruses all sound pretty similar, they are very catchy. The lyrics are also pretty strong. There are a few groups of songs on this album that tie into one another, like the four "The ____" songs. The chorus of the opening track comes back to close the album, and it's definitely one of the strongest moments on this album.

In conclusion, this has got to be the best crossover folk thrash metal albums I've ever heard... on account of this being the only crossover folk thrash metal album I've ever heard. Unfortunately, it's not an album I'd recommend for fans of any of those genres. Although, if crossover folk thrash sounds like your thing, do at least listen to "Wretched of the Earth", if only to sate your curiosity.