Review Summary: Low on furor
There’s something inherently primal and free in Celtic folk metal, which draws me to it more than other sub-genres of the style manage to. Whether it is the pagan ingenuity of Cruachan, the powerful earthiness of Primordial or the catchy flute-driven attack of Eluveitie, there’s always something to like in Celtic folk metal bands who have genuine affection for the past, and concern over how to meld past with the present. It is no great surprise then that Furor Gallico, an Italian-based Celtic folk metal project, caught my ear with their trailer for Songs of the Earth
. As we all know though, appearances can be deceptive, and when all is said and done, it’s clear Furor Gallico doesn’t belong in the same sentence with the aforementioned bands. There’s a lot more needed to make folk metal appealing than an abundance of flutes and folky melodies.
Besides the shortcomings in overall execution, which I will get to shortly, the first thing that is frown-conjuring is the production job, which is weak from all sides. The guitars are the most obvious offender, spewing forth a downright bizarre tone. It’s not a "hmm...interesting" bizarreness, but a displeasing, confusing one, since the guitars lack everything that would justify their inclusion: they sound tame, flat, and shoddy (I do find it amusing though how they suddenly explode in "Steam over The Mountain," generating a bunch of buzz and making the whole thing sound like Max Cavalera's vision of Celtic folk). And that is just the very visible tip of the iceberg. The drums sound soft, making the supposedly anticipatory build-up sections boring, and their combination with the guitars gives the whole background a needlessly muddy presence that teeters close to overpowering the whole folk side, which is at least tolerable. The vocals remain unburdened by this, which would be great if they fit in at all better than they actually do. You could make a case for the clean vocals sounding "earthy" and "authentic," but that doesn’t excuse the growls and harsh vocals, which plainly don’t vibe with the compositions. And I don’t mean with this type of music – all the three bands I highlighted in the opening paragraph include death growls in their repertoire – I mean with the music of Furor Gallico playing alongside them. They lack power, and cut through the music like a sword cuts through flesh, causing all sorts of auditory pain. The songs are divided into English and Italian cuts, and somehow the Italian sung passages sound a lot more pleasing – some food for thought for the band, that maybe they should forgo the notion of using English all-together.
Production woes aside, the actual content isn’t anything to write home about either. As with any folk metal album, the flutes are catchy – can’t help it, they’re infections instruments that get stuck in your head unless they’re overprduced to shriek mode – and there are a few nifty passages here and there. On the whole, Songs From The Earth
is not an unlistenable record, but then again, it’s not like that sequence of words can go down as praise. If I were to be generous, I’d say this is a predictable, harmless record, but couple that with the glaring shortcomings in production and you’ve got a traditional mess on your hands. The songwriting is so standard it hurts, with all of the album’s 49 minutes passing by without ever throwing a curve ball or having something jump at you, and all the catchy flutes and violin melodies in the world can’t overcome that. Same with the Italian language used: it sounds different (in a good way) because not many metal bands use it, but its uniqueness is undone by the humdrum music backing it. The harsh reality is Songs From The Earth
is just not an exciting piece of art. Would it bother me if it was playing as background music in a Renaissance fair? Not at all, but it wouldn’t arouse curiosity either.
In the end, it’s the lack of ambition that gets Furor Gallico. I’m not going to call into question their passion for their craft, but there aren’t any risks taken on this album, and as is so often true, no risk, no reward. For a group that named itself after the description ancient Romans gave to battle-ready Celtic warriors, Furor Gallico just doesn’t sound menacing enough. I don’t know who Nemain is, but "Nemain’s Breath" doesn’t shake me, "Wild Jig of Beltain" makes me think that I won’t be missing much if I skip the annual Beltain village party, and "To The End" must be a reference to the end of the village road leading to a benevolent neighboring village, because there’s nothing dangerous about it. If Furor Gallico sounded epic or ardent or over the top or triumphant, that would be fine too, but they don’t. They sound Celtic, sure, but that alone is not enough to light a spark in the dark. A popular saying is that you are what you eat, and its comparative here should be that you are what you sound like, which in the case of Furor Gallico is a run-of-the-mill Celtic metal group.