Subway to Sally - Mitgift - (8.5/10)
Published on March 18, 2014
Subway to Sally: Men in Tights, Err Leather
Eric Fish and his band of once-merry musicians, also known as Subway to Sally, present you with their twelfth full length album of folk-tinged heavy metal. Mitgift continues the band’s trend of slowly slicing away their much lauded folk elements in favor of darker atmospheres and slow-paced grooves; a trend they started all the way back in 1999 with Hochzeit. Sure the band’s sound was still solidly rooted in the realms of folk, but they have markedly stripped down the folk influence with each album after. To those hoping for even a partial return to their Mittealter-Metal days of yore, you will be disappointed once again. That’s not to say that Mitgift is a bad album, because it certainly is not, but, in keeping with their past few efforts, this is a dark album full of slow simmering grooves, moody quietude and brief folk flourishes.
Though the album starts out with a chant similar to “Alle, Psallite Cum Luya”, it’s not heralding another Bannkreis, like I was initially hoping. For whatever reason, Subway to Sally continues to distance themselves from their previous folk metal ties and focus on their moodier, dark style of metal. For longtime fans of the band, you shouldn’t be surprised by the material on Mitgift as it continues where Schwarz in Schwarz and Kruezfeuer left off. You know, the band pummeling away with groovy riffs, heavy percussion and folk flourishes. Mitgift focuses heavily on Eric Fish’s vocals, which if you didn’t know are sung entirely in German. Unlike the band’s early material, Fish’s style has turned from a silly, happy-go-lucky presentation, into a darker, somber style that exudes melancholy. While the vocals aren’t fist-pumping tavern fodder anymore, Fish’s newer style is more controlled and more professional, as his voice manages to take the German vocals and mold them into a silky melody.
It seems that Mitgift sees Subway to Sally going in a more classical approach, as the band plays their rhythmic metal to a more stately backing. “Warte, Warte”, for example, shows the band toying with a sound similar to Carl Orff’s “O Fortuna”, with driving and forceful melodies. Other tracks blend in this classical flair as well, but thankfully the band hasn’t entirely forgotten their roots. “Haus aus Schmerz” and “Dein Kapitän” show that the band still has some upbeat tavern melody left in them, as the violin, hurdy-gurdy or pipes rush to the forefront to great your ears with an upbeat throwback to Mittelater-Metal. The instrumental track “Vela Dare!” shows the guitars sinking into their old hook-laden folk rhythms, but it’s a short run at it. Unfortunately, the band’s focus on darker and more somber music keeps these flourishes from appearing more than occasionally.
There are a few moments that don’t really work, such as the random sounds of electricity and some odd keyboard samples here and there, but for the most part this is a strong album. The band’s driving rhythms countered with somber melody is striking. Eric Fish puts in his best performance in years. I appreciate that the band still tenuously clings to some of their folk elements, but I can all but rule out a complete return to form at this point in their career. Mitgift is an impressive album that should please any fan of the band’s work over the last ten years. If you’re just tuning in after Bannkreis, you’ll be surprised by the transformation, but anyone who’s been even remotely following Subway to Sally over their career can in no way feign they didn’t see this one coming. Mitgift is a stronger effort than the band’s previous two albums and a worthy addition to a stellar discography.