In Extremo - Quid Pro Quo - (8/10)
Published on July 14, 2016
It can be hard for a band that has almost single-handedly created a sub-genre to evolve throughout the years. German In Extremo had started out on the medieval music circuit together with Corvus Corax and were one of the (if not THE) first bands to mix that sound with metal on their Weckt die Toten! album all the way back in 1998. Throughout the years they began to shift their style a bit, bringing in more rock chords and riffs as opposed to metal, trying out a few more modern influences as well (often decried as an attempt to appeal to fans of bands such as Rammstein) and basically maneuvering themselves into the unenviable position of being stuck between tradition and progression. Quid Pro Quo is their eleventh album to date and once more tries to bridge the gap.
And if anybody still was hoping for a reversion to their full medieval metal past, it is doubtful that is ever going to happen again, but that being said, Quid Pro Quo might be a far cry from the In Extremo of old, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t have any life left in them. Jaunty “Störtebeker” sets things off, telling the story of one of Germany’s most famed pirates, again the guitars being a little subdued, but its catchiness is contagious and it sounds a bit like a matured version of the older In Extremo, whereas “Roter Stern” is a member of the modernized brigade (with Blind Guardian’s Hansi Kürsch as guest vocalist and he sounds great singing in German), which while catchy as well, suffers from a greatly reduced folk influence.
And this basically is the story of Quid Pro Quo, trying to straddle the two extremes with more or less success throughout the album. Songs such as the title track manage to combine both, but once “Pikse Palve” hits, it becomes clear that the Germans still are at their best when they go all-out folk metal with this pseudo Estonian song, giving Pymonte, Flex and Yellow Pfeiffer a bigger role again and prove that this unique mix of folk and metal still has all the relevance it had 18 years ago, see also “Dacw ‘nghariad”, which shows a Welsh influence and “Чёрный ворон”, which are two more of the ultimate genre hybrids that just plain work. “Palästinalied 2” is a continuation of their iconic cover version of Walther von der Vogelweide’s famous poem from the early 13th century, taking the three verses after (the original version had taken the first there verses), finishing one of the band’s best tracks overall.
“Lieb Vaterland, magst ruhig sein”, “Moonshiner” and “Glück auf Erden” also are far more subdued and might present some older fans with a few issues, whereas “Flaschenteufel” has a punky feel in the guitars and relative simplicity of especially the chorus, and “Sternhagelvoll” is a ballad with a shanty feel to it (going hand in hand with the booze-laden lyrics).
Production values are beyond reproach, so where does Quid Pro Quo stand? It without a doubt is very entertaining and still retains the In Extremo spirit of their medieval past, but at the same time the reduced heaviness and especially the reduced folk influences definitely harm several of the songs. In the end, though, it’s still pure In Extremo and a worthy continuation of their evolution throughout the years. One can, though, still reminisce about the sheer joy and energy of their old medieval folk metal songs…