Review Summary: It might look and even be a bit cheesy, but Embraced By Fire is a lot of fun
I have never thought of German as a particularly beautiful language (no disrespect). With that said, when it comes to folk metal vocals, there aren’t many languages that are better suited for channeling the primeval essence that comes with the territory. The thing is, the German language has a certain power behind its words, like it was meant from the start for rallying troops or sharing ideas to a wide audience. So when Embraced By Fire
’s third track "Element" rolls around, which is sung entirely in German, it’s nigh impossible to resist shouting along to the uber-catchy chorus in jubilant fashion, never mind the fact that it remains hazy what’s actually being said. Coincidentally, that’s what Wolfchant are all about
: having a bloody good time, with no questions asked. The band’s brand of colorful power-folk is nothing new under the sun, but hot damn is it captivating.
Embraced By Fire
starts in an unexpected but interesting fashion, as the intro track introduces us to Pirates of the Caribbean like orchestration, with distant drums, dominant brass sections and lively strings setting the scene for the title track which, in order to add to the oddness, takes a completely different route compared to what the intro had set up. The buoyant orchestration remains, but quickly gives the lead over to guitars and harsh vocals, as more traditional-sounding melodies (regarding folk metal) start to dominate. This blend sounds incredibly joyous and upbeat, with no evident signs that six men wearing war paint are behind the music. There is a lot going on, not only in the title track, but on the whole album, as spry guitar melodies play over swift drum patterns, keyboards, interchanging vocals and occasional symphonics. It all comes together better than expected though, as Wolfchant sound like a exultant, more kinetic version of Ensiferum (and that’s saying a lot). The drums, being the backbone of the band’s sound, almost never stray from blast-beat speeds as the remaining members of Wolfchant follow and plow through the tracks with unmatched vigor. There simply is no stopping this folk machine headed for battle (or a village dance, who knows, these guys seem too jolly to be up for taking lives).
This barrage of, well, everything can become somewhat exhausting for the listener, though. There is close to no variation in the songs when it comes to tempo and although the melodies and solos are outstanding, the relentless folky whirlwind eventually takes its toll. The middle of the album runs together a bit too much and it’s hard to pinpoint any true highlights because of that. Embraced By Fire
is a mosher’s wet dream come true, but for the casual listener, it might just be too speedy for its own good (the only calmer song is the mid-tempo "Autumn’s Breath", which is incidentally one of the best/most distinguishable cuts on the album as well). That’s not to say the album isn’t a worthy listen, because it is, very much so – as said, the melodies are great and the band knows how to use keyboards and orchestration in a way that they don’t become overbearing. One just has to be in a specific mood to enjoy these frantic 43 minutes of power-folk.
To sum it up, Wolfchant are offering folk metal at its most catchy and vigorous on their fifth full-length album. They obviously took the criticism regarding their last few records being a bit stale to heart, as Embraced By Fire
has elevated levels of everything. The songs are fast, eventful and broad when it comes to depth, even if the never-changing tempo makes it hard to notice at first. The role of the orchestration has grown compared to the band’s previous releases, but it fits into their sound like a fist to the eye, which makes it a welcome expansion. Wolfchant are presenting a no holds barred onslaught of upbeat folk metal with Embraced By Fire
– an album that is bound to be one of the catchiest releases of the year in the genre. It’s lively, fun and entirely riveting. Grab your viking helmet and your tankard, it’s time to pillage and party.