Dalriada are probably Hungary’s highest profile metal band at the moment, with their folk metal having reached a surprisingly large fanbase and rewarding their years of hard work. Now many people will argue that the Magyars might be one of the leading folk metal bands, period, even though they have only recently really been able to tap into the commercial potential. Mesék, álmok, regék is a best-of album of some kinds, touching each of their seven albums to date and giving not only newcomers a great overview of how they have evolved throughout the years.
Now Dalriada are not your average folk metal, but they play in a league of their own, mixing at times quite heavy metal with flute and violin, the outstanding vocals (female and male, growls and screams, throat singing and excellent choirs). Compared to many of their contemporaries, though, the folk melodies and use of the instruments (especially the violin) are typically Hungarian, which this scene has not seen much of, giving the band a distinct sound of their own, which is worth a lot these days, where there are more bands popping up almost every day than even the most steadfast metalhead can even dream of discovering.
Setting out with the “A Walesi Bárdok” trilogy off their 2004 debut Fergeteg and racing through time to the final two tunes from their maybe best album to date, Napisten Hava, showing how the band progressed from more straight up metal to grand and epic all-out folk metal with violin and flute without losing its core character. Obviously the vocal duo of András Ficzek and Laura Binder is very responsible for the instant recognizability throughout the years, but the music around them is what makes Dalriada so outstanding, combining surprising heaviness in both guitars and drums with grand melodies, authentic Hungarian folk and make everything highly dynamic and contagious.
Even long-time fans will get something out of Mesék, álmok, regék, being able to get a cross-section through Dalriada’s whole career in a nutshell, while newcomers will be able to immediately immerse themselves in the grandeur of this exceptional Hungarian band. A great compilation of a great band!
The steel has begun to melt.
Brazilian torchbearers Krisiun sure have been at this heavy music game for a while now. Influenced by the earliest incarnations of legendary acts like Morbid Angel, Slayer, and Pestilence, the three Kolesne brothers have become a death metal institution of sorts. Banging their heads since the early heydays of tape-trading, Krisiun have managed to stay fresher and heavier than many of their contemporaries, and even after twenty-plus years, Forged in Fury, the trio’s tenth full-length album, proves that their aggression is still quite palpable.
Of course, though, that’s not to say that it hasn’t waned.
In truth, Forged on Fury is Krisiun dimmed (or dimming), often leveling off at a churning death metal jog that neither loses steam nor gains any considerable traction. As far as Krisiun albums go, it feels exceptionally subdued, with a lasting appeal that relies heavily on its punchy grooves, hostile demeanor, and Alex’s drill sergeant belting. And you may counter, ‘But isn’t that what the other albums also relied on?’ Sure, they did, but not exclusively.
In a strange way, subsequent spins of Krisiun’s prior two albums, 2008’s masterful Southern Storm and 2011’s wholly underrated The Great Execution, prep the listener for this not entirely abrupt lapse in savagery. While the band’s earlier records undoubtedly delved in more nefariously, nearly esoterically, toned death metal, Krisiun eventually adopted a more disjointed, fractured, practically militant vibe as they evolved, with records like Works of Carnage and the aforementioned Southern Storm looming large and viciously in charge. But with the release of the multi-hued The Great Execution, something a bit more prosaic seemed to be stirring.
“Ways of Barbarism” temporarily harkens to those damned battering days of olde, but at around the 2:20 mark a familiar pattern kicks in, one dominated by grumbling drums and Alex’s ill-tempered remonstrations. “Soulless Impaler” works the same way and, after a while, it all seems to fall into a nondescript crevasse of mid-tempo pummeling. The record’s attitude is ultimately its saving grace, as tracks like “Burning of the Heretic” and “Strength Forged Fury” are indisputably genuine in their metal-colored angst, but it’s all been done before, and if we’re talking recent memory, Dawn of Azazel’s The Tides of Damocles tackles this template with far more violent results.
It’d be remiss to not deem Forged in Fury a disappointment, but it kind of is, and Krisiun, to their defense, appear to be relegated to pulling one of two excuse cards—they can blame it on their superior back catalogue, or they can blame it on that insufferable old wretch, father time. Of course, the album isn’t a total letdown, so ardent fans should certainly see if it suits their fancy more than yours truly, but if you’ve come here looking for anything even remotely resembling “Combustion Inferno,” well, walk on home, boy.
You wouldn’t even Node!
The djent train seems to have come and gone for the most part, with only the truly standout examples (most of which were there to begin with) managing to stick around in the wider musical consciousness. Nevertheless, Sydney’s Northlane have grown into one of their genre and Australia’s most marketable names, with their prior releases, Discoveries (2011) and Singularity (2013), earning them a legion of loyal followers. Node is Northlane’s first album with new singer Marcus Bridge, who replaced original singer Adrian Fitipaldes late last year, and it signals a huge change of direction for the band, which makes for their most accessable and promising record yet, while at the same time being their least-intrinsically enjoyable.
The problem with Northane is not so much that they’re an inherently sub-par band (they’re not), but rather that they pale in comparison to the competition, which they so blatantly invoke. While Northlane have built up a comparable public profile, at-least equal to, and often eclipsing djent’s high-rollers.1 Northlane are a kind of fun name to throw around for the non-initiated, but I doubt many of their fans are familiar with Periphery, let alone Monuments or Tesseract;2 and the band’s music reflects this. Node would be a fine release in isolation, but the fact of the matter is, it simply isn’t. Being derivative or otherwise obviously influenced is fine, so long as a band brings something of its own character to the mix—which is something Northlane arguably did by regressing Periphery’s sound on Discoveries and Singularity—but Node sounds like Tesseract got about a quarter of the way into writing One and just stopped.
The jostling bass rumble of “Soma” and opening bass punch of “Obelisk” lead you in thinking you’re in for Nothlane’s usual high-energy djent-mosh fare. However, this effect quickly abates, with Node’s overall style and content presenting a more reflective take on their genre. With Node, Northlane have moved away from the Periphery-aping of yore and reoriented themselves in the vein of the softer djentsers, of which Tesseract are the standout example. Bridge is primarily reliant on his cleans, which dominate Node. Yet, while Bridge’s overall tone is preferable and more competent than Fitipaldes’, it leaves the album lacking in the “crunch” and aggression, which—after a few tracks—it becomes readily apparent that it sorely lacks. Similarly, what turns out to be a deceptively weak mix robs Node, and particularly Bridge (whose infrequent growls at times invoke the best of Jesse Leech in their tonality)3 of their impact.
Node makes for outstanding background music. When not paying attention, the record’s better moments have a habit of jumping out at you. The intermittent bounce of “Obelisk” and the quasi-breakdown that begins “Leech,” in particular, are continual sticking points, even if they fall apart given closer attention. The same is true for Node at large. There’s nothing overly detrimental about the experience it offers but it’s not particularly rewarding either. If I can stoop to clichéd adages for a second, there’s a distinct lack of “meatiness” about the record (comparable to its thin mix), which ultimately winds up leaving it unsatisfying and insubstantial.4
(Seriously) Try these instead:
Periphery – Juggernaut
Monuments – The Amanuensis
Ghost Iris – Anecdotes of Science & Soul
1 Nothlane have about twice as many Facebook “likes” (264, 914) as Monuments (140,571) and Vildhjarta (112,120), roughly the same as Tesseract (227,304), and about half as many as Periphery (404,401). (Stats taken on 24 July, in Australia; the day Node officially came out.)
2 I know various examples of this kind of person, who are actively resistant to my recommendations of Periphery.
3 Those wondering what the Killswitch Engage frontman would sound like atop a more djent-ish setting would do well to check out the Empire Shall Fall EP he did called Volume 1: Solar Plexus (2011).
4 As a vegetarian I probably shouldn’t be using this sort of language; perhaps Node more-aptly warrants a comparison soft, sloppy tofu comparison which is still served in a mildly tasty sauce (therefore making it edible if not desirable), and the actually-delicious, well-cooked firm stuff that soaks up that sauce and becomes the tiny pockets of concentrated, flavorsome goodness in your stir-fry, worth hunting out.
Juicy jams from the month of July.
Members of the TMO crew nominate their favorite albums from the first half of 2015.
A month low on bigger releases finds the force strong in many smaller ones.
It’s not every day that a Francophile vampire from Japan with an unhealthy obsession with roses decides to put on a concert in the United States…
Live at Beyond the Stars in Glendale, California on June 4, 2015.
Buckethead – Colma
Highlights from the powerful month of May.
Guest interviewer, Antoine Richard (operator of Metantoine’s Magickal Realm), sits down with Jean-Pierre Abboud, an American musician known for his involvement with the excellent heavy metallers Borrowed Time and, more recently, the Canadian epic doomsters of Funeral Circle. I’m glad he took the time to answer these questions.
Selections from all over the metal map make up this month’s best offerings.