Review Summary: A really enjoyable mix of folk and heavy metal that deserves a lot more attention than it gets.
As Skyforger released their 5th full length album Kurbads merely a few weeks ago, I wanted to write a review for their previous album that definitely doesn’t get the credit it deserves. While most of the people are busy listening to mainstream folk metal bands, there are some true gems out there that a lot of people tend to overlook. You guessed it right, Skyforger’s Perkonkalve is surely one of them.
Drawing inspiration from their culture, history and legends, the band nicely mixes heavy metal with traditional Latvian folk music, always singing in their own language. In their earlier efforts, they used to be a much more black metal oriented band, but with each new album the black metal elements were deployed less and less.
What we have here in Perkonkalve is a mix of 80’s heavy metal riffs, some tremolo riffing that seem reminiscent of the band’s earlier efforts and of course the traditional Latvian folk music. I have to point out that Skyforger does not rely on the traditional instruments to carry the music. This is what lifts them above a lot of folk metal bands that use the guitar to create some random noise in the background. So there are some really nice and catchy riffs throughout the album that would make you listen to it even if you would ignore the traditional instruments. Flutes, bagpipes and kokle (Latvian instrument that is similar to Finnish kantele) are used to compliment the guitars and they work really well. Especially on “Garais Dancis”, which I believe is an old Latvian folk song that is rearranged by Skyforger, there are really nice melodies that would get you hooked and leave you wanting more.
Pounding double bass drums are commonly found and the bass is audible and powerful. Production is pretty clear comparing to band’s previous albums like Kauja Pie Saules, where it was quite raw. The singer does not growl or scream like you would expect from most folk metal bands, instead he is kind of shouting the words. It may sound disturbing at first and might need a few spins till you get used to it. I just find them okay. Some “normal” clean vocals are also used from time to time, adding a bit of variety. The lyrics are an important part of the album. These guys really pay attention here and avoid cliche folk metal lyrics that make me puke at first listen. Kudos to the band for this.
To sum it up, if you’re into folk metal and haven’t given this band a chance before, you should change that. Catchy and melodic heavy metal riffs and captivating folk melodies are what await you in this album. It is not perfect or extremely original, but it sure is better and more honest than most of the stuff that is being brought to you as folk metal.