Many fans hail MENHIR as the godfathers of German Pagan Metal and given that they’ve been around for over 12 years now only lends credibility to these claims. Six years passed since the release of their previous, third, album “Ziuwari” and there had been rumours that the Thuringians would take on the Metal adaptation of one of the earliest literary works in German, the “Hildebrandslied” (“Lay Of Hildebrand”), telling of the tragic encounter in battle between a son and his unrecognized father. The poem consists of 68 lines, but seems incomplete, as the ending of this encounter remains unsolved.
And three of the seven tracks found on “Hildebrandslied” indeed are dedicated to this poem, but more on that a little later on. Compared to their earlier works, the main glaring difference is that singer Heiko Gerull has improved his clear voice by leaps and bounds, which now is the main vocal style, which works really well given the epic and heroic nature of the songs and music, so the voice fits in perfectly, but do not worry, his nasty Black Metallic snarl still finds its way into the compositions of MENHIR.
This shift, though, sometimes brings us into the slightly odd situation of Black Metal portions added into the epic heroicism and seeming out of place, which thankfully is in the minority, but strikes during opener “Das Alte Lied Des Windes”, which other than that is a prime example for the band’s sound, offering us great melodies and atmosphere together with strong vocals, which basically is the marching direction for the whole album, only missing in “Dein Ahn”, which mostly consists of faster passages with harsh vocals, which lack the grand atmosphere of the rest of the album and only when they slow down and re-introduce the clear vocals or go completely dreamy and atmospheric, they re-capture this feeling.
But the centre piece undoubtedly are tracks 3-5, which are the two parts of the “Hildebrandslied” and their intro, which manage to capture the grand and epic feeling of the original text, complete with excellent expressive vocals, violin and acoustic guitar interplaying with the powerful electric guitars during the first part, while the second one is completely acoustic, with some sort of a medieval atmosphere, which still manages to get pretty powerful at times, these two tracks are maybe the best that MENHIR have crafted to date!
Even if many of you will not understand what they are singing about, as all their songs are in German (and even Germans probably won’t understand anything of the “Hildebrandslied” itself, as it is a mix of Old High German and Old Saxon), if you count Pagan Metal among your poisons of choice, then MENHIR’s fourth is a must, no ifs or buts!
(Online October 6, 2007)