Review Summary: Novices in no sense of the word.
In most cases, it would be considered counterproductive to contradict the very name of your band on the debut album, however, in the case of Green Novice, the stunning performance on Padebeši argues for an exception to this rule. Focusing on a brand of folk influenced pagan metal, Green Novice set about creating an atmosphere to their music that simultaneously combines the ferocity of the metal genre with intelligent songwriting and delicate acoustic segments. The subject matter of the album, both lyrically and musically, focuses on an array of strange topics. There is an assortment of symbolic concepts throughout the album, for example, that which is displayed on ‘Two Grizzled Steeds’. Even on the tracks that exhibit what could be seen as genre clichéd subject matter, it’s approached from a different angle and tackled with renewed creativity. Conflict and mythology are just a taste of the topics explored on Padebeši. Although the vocalist and his female guest both favour clean vocals for the larger portion of the album, it will be little help to you the listener in understanding the concepts, unless you are one of fewer than 2 million globally who speak Latvian. English lyrics are provided for those interested in reading a little deeper into the meaning of Padebeši, the literal meaning of which translates to ‘Clouds’ from Latvian.
Vocally, this album peaks. The multi-talented multi-instrumentalist Alvis Bernāns (who also plays electric and acoustic guitar parts on Padebeši), manages a succession of outstanding vocal performance throughout the album that perfectly complement the instrumental components and helps differentiate the band from their contemporaries in the folk/pagan metal genre. His clean vocals are simply amazing. Alvis doesn’t attempt to over-sing or unnecessarily complicate his music; he simply weaves his conceptual tales in his native Latvian tongue and paints a much better aural picture because of it. During optimum occasions throughout Padebeši, Bernāns clean vocals are layered with a quieter version of his harsh vocals, adding another level to the music and a welcomed hard edge to some of the more aggressive tracks, particularly ‘Werewolf’, and to a more subtle yet even greater extent on ‘Horseman’. Marta Vaivode adds some incredibly effective female vocal work on track 4; ‘Parkiuns Brought a Bride For His Son’. Vaivode tackles the majority of the vocal work on said track and makes a spectacle of it; truly one of the highlights of the album occurs when the combined vocal work of Marta and Alvis flits over the exceptional instrumental faction on the aforementioned song.
Marta is not the only guest musician who appears on Padebeši. Uģis Vilcāns, an additional bass player, works with the bands own Vitālijs Piskunovs on just under half the albums 7 tracks, ensuring that even with the clean vocals and acoustic guitar segments, the album remains downright heavy. The unusual addition of Latvīte Cirse, who plays a Baltic psaltery on album highlight ‘Two Grizzled Steeds’ and fifth track ‘Black Thunderclouds’, adds an experimental spice to the album, one that is quite unique and certainly a rarity in the metal genre.
The instrumental component of this band is phenomenal. How much more need be said once the lightning fast soloing on ‘Two Grizzled Steeds’ takes over, or the tranquil acoustic guitar intro on ‘Black Thunderclouds,’ or the entirety of closing track ‘Epilogue’ occur? One need only allow themselves to experience the majesty of the dual-bass guitar attack on ‘Parkiuns…’ or the electric guitar assault on opening track ‘In the Battlefield’ to render any words entirely redundant. Once the soft acoustic guitar introduction on ‘Black Thundercoulds’ relents to a warring monolith of deep, bass driven fury and electric guitar chugging, all mention of written text becomes obsolete. The drumming, courtesy of Valdis Metlāns, does not merely yield to the trite and generic metal blast beat frenzy, but instead lends itself to filling in any gaps that could have appeared in the overall weaving of a song. The drumming decides not to be narcissistic and the centre of attention in the music and instead becomes an effective backbone to the album. The guitarists Zigmunds Čeksis and Alvis Bernāns share some of the greatest moments this album has to offer. Whether they be in the thunderous chugging, memorable riffing, or simply the captivating soloing, the guitarists ensure that the album exceeds expectations time and time again.
The production is top-notch and, even more amazing, is the knowledge that the bands very own master of everything musical, Alvis Bernāns, is responsible for it. The bass is audible amidst the torrent, the guitars are balanced, the vocals are at the perfect volume so as not to be hidden beneath nor overtake the instrumental elements. Everything is pristine, and yet, the closing track ‘Epilogue’, which also features some interesting, almost orchestral electronic effects, consists of an extended acoustic guitar run, of course performed by Alvis. But instead of sounding as though a machine was responsible for the guitar playing, Alvis decided to leave in what others may take out, such as the noise of fleshy fingers sliding against notes as he moves up and down the strings. It creates a very real feeling to the track; it feels much more alive and organic then it may have otherwise.
In the end, the songwriting, the intelligence of the guest musicians and band members themselves (particularly Alvis) have all culminated into a single stunning musical achievement; Padebeši.