Style: Folk Metal
Release Date: 18 Oct 2019
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I've reviewed other bands from South America, such as Herteitr or Tuatha de Danann, who sound like they ought to be from Europe because their genre of choice happens to be Viking metal or Celtic folk metal. Here's a new one to add to that list! Like Tuatha de Danann, Tandra hail from southern Brazil, though this band are from a couple of states further south, in the city of Curitiba.
They're primarily a folk metal band, but they don't always stay there. The intro, for instance, The Summoning to the New Age, could be mistaken for a spaghetti western theme, while the first track proper, Thunder's Calling, is more of a power metal song, especially during the solos. It's good stuff but it didn't ring many folk metal bells for me.
That kicks in with the third track and does so with emphasis, beginning with flutes, acoustic guitar and hand drum. This is the title track and it stays folk metal even when it veers into extreme territory, some parts sounding a little black and others a little death. It's suitably epic though, with the ending full of singalong Brazilian Vikings.
It doesn't get more folk metal than Open the Bar, which ably showcases the accordion of Carlos Linzmeyer, along with Felipe Ribeiro's flute and all the regular metal instruments. It's a drinking song, as I'm sure you've already guessed, in the Korpiklaani mould, and it really gets the juices flowing. I think I suddenly need a Guinness, but it's not lunchtime yet...
While everything thus far has sounded Scandinavian, Marching to Infinity has a rather French theme. It's a lively piece and it ends up Celtic but there's a lot that an accordion can do and it isn't always drinking songs like Open the Bar and pagan celebrations like The Forest Dance. Marching to Infinity feels a little lost in between those two up tempo scorchers, especially with the former sounding like Korpiklaani and the latter like Alestorm.
The real odd track out here, though, is Last War Sacrifice (Prelude), which is very different. It's an intro to the longest track on offer, Winter Days at eight and a half minutes, and it's an atmospheric ethnic chant. It takes a long horse ride east to the steppes of Mongolia for some throat singing or maybe a long swim west to the plains of the New World for a Native American chant. It wouldn't have felt out of place on the recent Hu album.
I like Winter Days a lot. It's a melodic death metal/folk metal hybrid and a good one, using the best aspects of each genre. The guitars are rampant and the riffs powerful, but they're always melodic and the flutes dance further melodies over the top. Five minutes in, it drops into a folk section, like a clearing in the forest suddenly appeared and we're not chasing through the trees any more, we're able to sit around a fire, revel in being alive and do what we need to keep the winter spirits out. It ends, of course, with us in the saddle again, racing on to wherever, maybe outrunning the cold.
The album wraps up with a delicate three minute outro called Tears of Sorrow which may mean that we never made it and we're lying in the forest snow and we aren't going to be getting up. It definitely has a melancholy air to it.
I still don't grasp why there's such a Scandinavian folk tradition growing in South America right now but, while my mind wonders about the factors to make it happen, my ears relish the fact that these bands do it so well. This is good stuff and varied stuff too. While the party songs, Open the Bar and The Forest Dance, are immediate, the deeper songs grow with further listens, as they should. I'll happily raise a drinking horn to all the Viquingues da América do Sul. Let's hope Google Translate got that bit right!