Athelstan and Wulfstan are back, the pride of Anglo-Saxon Metal and I had eagerly awaited their fifth full-length album and “Steadfast” does not disappoint in any way, shape or form! I’ve been a huge fan of the English duo ever since I first laid ears on them and to me they keep moving from strength to strength, also because they have carved their very own niche that makes them instantly recognizable as nobody else than FOREFATHER.
Standing in full tradition of their previous works they managed to indeed take their sound one step further from the already brilliant “Ours Is The Kingdom” from 2004, so they definitely made good use of the almost four years it took them to come out with “Steadfast” and once more they do not take any prisoners with their music. Despite not having changed their sound, they still managed to progress, the biggest difference might be that the songs overall seem a little faster and maybe a tad heavier, but if you view this as a potential detriment, is more than compensated by the awe-inspiring epic melodies that mark each and every single song and, of course, Wulfstan’s unique clear vocals that add their very own touch to the compositions.
Setting out on high speed with “Brunanburh”, the Britons showcase all of their trademarks in tip-top shape, the armor shining, the swords sharpened and the blood boiling. If you don’t believe me, listen to the incredible melodies of “Cween Of The Mark”, the epic grandeur of “Theodish Belief”, the utter brilliance of “Steadfast” or the emotional reflection of instrumental “Eostre” (an ode to the Anglo-Saxon goddess of the dawn) and be converted to the force that is FOREFATHER. And I could technically mention every single track, as they all are of amazing quality, every single one!
Viking and Pagan Metal undoubtedly are two of the fastest growing sub-genres at the moment, spawning many bands, some great, some generic, but despite the flood of bands trying to find their own way, FOREFATHER stand head and shoulders above them, as they do not resort to the usual ingredients of happy melodies and big choirs (don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with either of those, if they’re used right!), but have this epic feel threading through their songs, have a great balance between catchiness and variety and the vocal bliss of harsh and clear, which you will just not be able to resist once you’ve been exposed to.
The production is crisp and clear, the cover artwork of Martin Hanford (BAL-SAGOTH) fits like a glove and the lyrics still tell glorious tales of ye olden times, tying everything together in great fashion and leaving me in awe every single time I listen to this album.
The only reason, why I am not awarding the full rating is that I have a feeling that there still is more in these two guys that might elevate them even further, but if you have even the slightest affinity towards these sounds, FOREFATHER is an absolute MUST for you!
(Online April 8, 2008)