Friday 9 August 2019

Velesar - Dziwadła (2019)

Country: Poland
Style: Folk Metal
Rating: 8/10
Release Date: 6 Jul 2019
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I had trouble finding a second album to review today. I weeded through many lesser albums that I wouldn't review here, only to find a great one that was perfect until I released that it won't be released until the 23rd. So, back to the search went I until I found Velesar, a Polish band formed last year by Marcin Wieczorek, who had previously sung for bands like Goddess of Sin, Radogast and River of Time, covering heavy, thrash and folk ground in the process.

This is folk metal, as the atmospheric intro makes very clear. It features a host of interesting instruments mixing together in the rain, including drum, flute and violin, but also voices as instruments. It's delightful and it's a great way to set the mood. So is the opening track proper, Taniec diaboła, a wild piece of music that demonstrates how lively folk metal can be. I wanted to get up and dance which, besides being ill advised in a kilt, is something I have zero talent at. My feet couldn't stay still though. I was unsurprised to discover that the song's title translates to The Devil's Dance.

While I like the metal instrumentation here, it's the folk instruments that really stood out as dominant. The violin that leads the way on so many songs, like Zew Arkony and Ślad Swarożyca and that's variously the work of Iga Suchara and Jagoda Połednik. Similarly, there are two flautists here. Zuzanna Bornikowska is responsible for the flute on Ostatnia Kupalnocka and the title track, but Katarzyna Babilas handles most of the rest.

The other folk instrument is an unusual one, a kemanche, which can be heard on the title track; I had to look up what it is, finding that it's a bowed string instrument from the eastern Mediterranean. I thought it's what provided that gorgeous tone behind Karczmiany troll, which is much more serious sounding, but I'm told that that's a violin instead, meaning that I'm even more impressed with the violinists. I'm also happy that the flute and violin are lead instruments here and it's the best folk metal that allows that, instead of expecting only some texture here and there. Plony wouldn't be the same without a violin.

Marcin Wieczorek's voice is just a little rough to give him character and a lot firm to be a commanding lead. Dawid Holona gets moments here and there to highlight why this is folk metal rather than just folk, with good solos on Ostatnia Kupalnocka and Plony. I was highly impressed by the drummers, as the drums vary so much on this album but never cease to be interesting. Again, they're the work of two people: Łukasz Obiegły and Marcin Frąckowiak, who also plays the rhythm guitar.

While the majority of the album is lively and uplifting, built on dances and shanties, there's a darkness to it too, albeit a friendly one as highlighted by the album's title, which is Polish for Freaks. The intro is Where the Sun Does Not Reach and there are songs here called Brother's Blood, Wolf Pack and Troll Inn. It's fairy tale darkness, I think, as is hinted on the cover art, and I love that.

I hadn't heard of Velesar before, but I'm paying attention now. They've only released one single before this, which is the opening track, Taniec diaboła, but this debut album is consistently strong for almost an hour. I hope they continue to make music for a long time to come.

And, should I one day win the lottery, I'd love to see Velesar live. I want to see the pit come alive during tracks like Normanica, a Viking shanty. I'm sure the stage would be alive with seven musicians on it playing their socks off. This is folk metal the way that I like it best: lively and frantic and tight, with folk instruments at the fore. Let's see if YouTube will allow me to live vicariously through video.

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