I think that by now most people have figured out that Russia has a very wide scene with especially good exposure in the Folk-related subgenres of Metal, and another addition to the merry band of nature-phile musicians hails from St.Petersburg and bears the a little off-the-beaten-path name of TROLL BENDS FIR. Originally founded in 1999 as a more Rock oriented band, the last two EPs had seen the band swerve closer into the Folk Metal waters and “Brothers In Drinks” is a compilation of said two EPs, plus a collaboration with KORPIKLAANI’s Jonne Järvelä, calling the whole thing “Beer Folk”.
And while I have heard my fair share of Folk Metal, TROLL BENDS FIR managed to grasp my attention pretty much from the get go of opener “Bratya Vo Hmelyu” (“Brothers In Drinks”), because they manage to bring such a fresh energy into their music together with great melodies and good structure that they are a bliss to listen to and almost guaranteed to bring good mood into your life! Besides the regular ensemble of instruments, also have two violinists and one Irish whistle to supplement and they use them to greatest effect.
What strikes me the most here is that the violins and flute/whistle are very well integrated and never seem gimmicky, but are a firm part of the whole song working greatly with the melodies, the vocals, the structures, the dynamics, so basically the whole thing. And as I already said, “Bratya Vo Hmelyu” is a prime example for this at the helm of the album, reeling you in as one of the best songs of its kind I have heard of late! Energetic, with the dual vocals of Konstantin “Troll” Rumyantsev and Maria “Dzhetra” Leonova, the already mentioned Folk instruments, great melodies and dynamics, how can you not love this, if you like this style?
If you wanted to put a few key words on “Brothers In Drinks”, then the following would give you a pretty good idea: Energy, great melodies, variety, power, fun. Other highlights include my second favourite “Beer Mantra”, which has this great balance between fast and powerful and calmer and more relaxed, love the dynamics and the way the melodies are brought in (just listen to the lead flute at the beginning), “Ave Celia!”, which I had originally not liked since it is way calmer and more Rock, but the sheer quality of the song writing in the end brought it to the forefront as well as “Vosstaniye Trolley” that is less heavy, but still very powerful, especially Maria’s vocals show a lot of expression here.
The only song that even after multiple spins just would not connect with me is “Kruzhchka Temnogo Elya”, which somehow is found lacking impact and cohesion and is the only darker spot on the otherwise almost immaculate canvas of “Brothers In Drinks”. Not that there is no big room for improvement anymore, but this album just has so much fresh energy and spirit that it is hard not to start moving with a smile on the face, and the best thing is that it keeps growing!
(Online February 4, 2012)