Review Summary: Slam down a mead and sing along, because it’s 2009 and the Viking spirit lives on
Blindfolded, you amble along a snow-sprayed desolate mountain range, relying on the least developed of your senses to stab your beaten body through the unforgiving wrath of a November’s wind. Wife? Dead. Children? Dead. Village? Burned. Heathen Foray’s latest was never expected to make a mockery of you like this. But that’s too damn bad, ‘cause for the rest of us Germanic savage bastards, we’re all about to die and go to seventh heathen
Sagas and Slania pretty much tranquillised the 2008 Folk Metal tension that brewed within Folk metal-heads. 2009 rolls in and we are greeted with a few tempting offerings from bands such as Finsterforst, Suidakra and Hammer Horde. But up until now, nothing has really hit the spot, like the latest from Austrian Folk Metal group, Heathen Foray. The debutante’s contribution is more than we could expect, as a barrelful of hammer-strikes rain down to the groping fingers of the Folk Metal crowd. Slam down a mead and sing along, because it’s 2009 and the Viking spirit lives on.
Heathen Foray slapped together a line-up from various small-time bands and then solidified the act so they could record their debut effort, The Passage. This Austrian outfit have walked a tight path as they release a so-called “Folk/Viking Metal” album without incorporating any of the esoteric instruments that have woven the foundations of the Folk Metal sound. No keyboards. No violins. No flutes. No didgeridoos (Aussie Folk Metal ftw). Although, fear not; the Folk influence is there - minus the Folk appliances. Fading Tree
initiates the adventure with a simple melodious riff which exposes into a blast of tight drumming and ferocious guitar leads. Vocals saunter onto the scene with a gruff, “Hail!” The epic journey has started. There is no denying these guys are playing Melodic Death Metal. But with insanely catchy hooks and riffs, which sound very Folkish for most of the time, and the beastly output from the vocalist whom professes about all things heathen and hedonistic, there is little doubt that the music we hear is the compelling progression of a race built on piracy, thievery, and violence, cultivated in a way only known to the 21st century.
With such melodious riffage, and easy listening for one-spinners, this album is tough to condemn. Choruses provide the pinnacle vocal exhibits for many of the tracks, with beauties on Wolkenbruch
, Theatre of Battle
. Although, it is the to-ing and fro-ing of melodic guitars which points to The Passage’s shining star. The speedy delivery is enjoyable and appreciable on the first listen with no track losing mood or momentum. Chants
is a simple telling of a man’s infallible vengeance laced with fast-paced solos and drumming sleight of superb speed and style. It starts with a pointless acoustic piece which segues into the riffs that inspires neck muscles to thrash about like Erik the Red’s celebratory bedroom antics. Luckily, the acoustic guitar was laid to rest from there on in, with the band opting for tremendous melodic hooks to introduce the listener to the Viking turmoil that they had created. Ancient Secrets
, with a galloping charge, is such a track that blasts listeners with guitar trickery from the get-go, as if Amon Amarth influences had burned their way through countless villages to break into the studio. Parallels with the popular Melodeath/Viking band are evident but with the merry feeling that sits in your gut when you listen to this, it is easily forgiven that originality is a plausible flaw.
Sonic standouts include the opener, Chants
, Theatre of Battle
. With such a simple formula it easy to overlook these chimney-sweepers as the amphetamine-charged little brother of its influences, but with an easy approach and a spare 45 minutes, The Passage will have you chanting out the words, and pretty soon you’ll be replacing insults like “idiot” with “cannon fodder”. Hail Thor.
Heathen Foray’s “The Passage” is out April 24, 2009 via Black Bards Entertainment