Thursday 12 November 2020

Saltatio Mortis - Für immer frei (2020)

Country: Germany
Style: Medieval Metal
Rating: 8/10
Release Date: 9 Oct 2020
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There's a song by gypsy punk masters Gogol Bordello called American Wedding whose lyrics begin "Have you ever been to American wedding? Where is vodka? Where is marinated herring? Where are the musicians that got the taste? Where's the supply that's gonna last three days? Where's the band that like fanfare? Gonna keep it going twenty four hour!"

That sprang quickly to mind here because Saltatio Mortis, those German purveyors of fine folk metal since the year 2000, have a new album out and they're exactly who I'd have booked to perform live at my wedding, should I have won the lottery to pay for their airfare. They're the musicians that got the taste and like fanfare. I'd have ventured out onto the dancefloor myself, because even my notoriously uncoordinated feet can't not move to this music. That's a good thing because the band's name means "dance of death" and, according to Wikipedia, their motto is, "He who dances does not die."

If I'm counting properly, this is their twelfth album and their incessant beats are backed up by driving bagpipes with no end of folk instruments that only start with hurdy-gurdy, bouzouki and shawm. This band have more energy than any half dozen random punk bands and they know exactly how to get our feet moving, our head banging and our voices singing along, even if we don't have enough German to buy a beer during Oktoberfest. "Was ist ein vaterland?"

I've heard a few Saltatio Mortis albums in my time and I've never been disappointed by them. They've moved forward a lot since their early days, to the degree of a rapped vocal on Mittelfinger Richtung Zukunft, but that progression is perhaps best highlighted here in Palmen aus Stahl, which starts out like it's introducing a rave and quickly leaps into NDH territory, an engaging mixture of Rammstein and your favourite Renaissance bagpipe group (hey, Tartanic). Again, I don't know the lyrics (Palmen aus Stahl apparently means Palm Trees of Steel), but I was singing along anyway in words that may or may not have approached the real ones.

Palmen aus Stahl is a highlight, but there are a bunch of those. My favourite may or may not be Loki, but Linien im Sand is right behind it and then the title track and Palmen aus Stahl and Löwenherz... maybe the whole album is a highlight. OK, a few listens in, I'm finding a few songs starting to fade a little, but there isn't one duff track on offer and there are fourteen of them here, if we count the instrumental intro, Ein Traum von Freiheit, which is as evocative as anything else here, if even more Celtic. It's almost the definitive stage intro and it leads directly into the punky Bring mich zurück.

The first eight songs in tandem are enough to leave someone of my advancing years breathless, so it's probably a good thing that the band calm things down after that. Rose im Winter is a solid ballad, all rough but heartfelt and with a neat drone behind it. Factus de materia is an old school mediaeval folk tune, sung in Latin with multiple chants and performed for the most part with hand held drums; it's a demonstration that folk music isn't just for genteel scholars because this one kicks ass and I could see the steins swaying during choruses. Seitdem du weg bist sounds like an acoustic take on pop punk and that continues as the album heats back up again.

After that three track break, Saltatio Mortis kick right back into high gear with Keiner von Millionen and they stay there until the album's done. These final three songs have pop sensibilities, as indeed a number of earlier songs did, but they're still bursting with energy and they kick serious ass. It's just a reminder that, while this band are fairly categorised as folk metal, even if Metal Archives still hasn't opened their door to them, they cast their net widely and trawl in all sorts of styles to transport into the futuristic mediaeval mindspace that they've pioneered. And that keeps them as fresh as ever. Now, about that wedding...

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