For years now Latvian SKYFORGER are in the absolute spearhead of worldwide Pagan Metal. Founded in 1995, the band from Riga released its already legendary "Semigalls' Warchant" demo in 1997, which I discovered the band with and kind of fell in love with. Through the two following albums "Kauja Pie Saules" and "Latviesu Strelnieki" the band from the Baltics managed to further their status and also to evolve despite the problems they were confronted with throughout their career.
Because of the use of old Latvian and pagan symbols they were branded as nazis, which led to them negating any connections like that on their debut "Kauja Pie Saules". Additionally their label Mascot (via which's sub label II Moons the debut had been released) decided to go into a completely new direction, which left the band out completely. By now they signed with German label Folter Records and presents us with their third full album "Thunderforge - Perkonkalve".
And if this album doesn't finally bring SKYFORGER the more than deserved breakthrough, then I don't know anymore what will, because what the Latvians offer us on "Thunderforge - Perkonkalve" is simply impressive! What strikes right away, is the very darn heavy guitar sound, right at the beginning of opener "Kad Usinš Jaj" the duo Peter and Rihard rolls over you that it's pure bliss! The Latvians once more give us a very original mix of super heavy Pagan Metal, Heavy Metal riffing, Folk influences (like a flute), the rough, but discernible vocals of Peter, mighty choirs and the characteristic lyrics in the Latvian language, which's foreign sound fits like the dot on the "i" in the SKYFORGER sound (OK, I know, there is no "i" in these two words, but you get what I mean).
"Gada Isaka Nakts" then starts with great twin guitars, which bear a folky touch in them, over fat double bass before Peter sets in again and another great, melodic, but heavy song is on its way, borne by the great guitar melodies, arranged with dynamics and tension, then a purely acoustic interlude with flute and another instrument that I cannot put any name to, but hey, this is so much fun to listen to, you can only sit still during this, if you either don't like this style at all or already are dead… "Nakts Debesu Karakungs" more hits the curb of the previous album, a bit more the original Pagan Metal, with power galore and also atmospheric keyboards, which form a strong contrast and give this song a hardly comparable atmosphere.
The instrumental "Garais Dancis" then surprises with bagpipes, rhythmic drums and guitars, purest Folk Metal, just brilliant, I cannot say it any way differently! The title track stomps ahead, with rough vocals, just like a strong choir and more clean vocals, very rhythmic guitars and fat double bass (still the song is only mid paced) and when then the flute sets in, I am lost within the song… Then "Migla Migla, Rasa Rasa (Svetas Vedibas)", with layered clean vocals and pure Folk instruments, flute and something unknown to me again, just to turn into pure Folk Metal again, even enhanced by some female vocals. *taking a deep breath* Three songs are left, at first "Cusku Sieviete", a lot more power and heaviness, but without breaking out of the SKYFORGER sound.
Great also the epic "Caur Aizsaules Vartiem", with strong bass, brilliant melodies and the typical, original SKYFORGER atmosphere in the guitar sound, plus the calmer, more haunting passages, which add a completely own dimension to the Latvians' sound, before unleashing the super heavy Doom wave, stomping everything into the ground that dares to stand in the way of SKYFORGER. Everything finally is rounded up with "Tumsa Un Sala" and great heavy Folk Metal it is, accompanied by thundering drums, that ends "Thunderforge - Perkonkalve" in style and fashion.
I do not know, how the Latvians do it, but with their third album SKYFORGER have managed to come up with a really big strike that, just like ESTERTOR, would have absolutely deserved to be in my Top 20, but unfortunately the order of the album came in too late. Anyways, Pagan Metal with Folk influences and Heavy Metal elements has never sounded better as with SKYFORGER here, don't tell you I haven't warned you, now go and get "Thunderforge - Perkonkalve"! NOW! (Online January 21, 2004)