Thursday 9 December 2021

Cân Bardd - Devoured by the Oak (2021)

Country: Switzerland
Style: Folk/Black Metal
Rating: 8/10
Release Date: 12 Nov 2021
Sites: Bandcamp | Facebook | Instagram | Metal Archives

I like Cân Bardd a lot, because there are precious few folk metal bands around who can weave the folk part of that into the metal part so inherently. Sure, they're folk/black metal but the principle is the same. This isn't metal with folk elements added into it. It's as much folk music as it is metal, however fast and heavy it gets. This is their third album and I'm listening because the Vietnamese black metal band Elcrost listed Cân Bardd's The Last Rain in their 2019 end of year lists. I wasn't going to miss out on their new one.

I see their folk/black metal listed with both epic and atmospheric adjectives and both are obvious on the beautiful intro, Echoes of the Moon, which weaves calming instruments over birdsong and rain. I'm not sure just how many instruments there are in play and, given that everything but the drums is performed by one man, Malo Civelli, I'm guessing that most of them are really synths. It slowed my heartrate down, that's for sure, especially when he's playing a piano in such a way that it sounds like a harp.

He sped it back up again later, of course, with the aid of Dylan Watson on drums and a few guests here and there, but he takes his time. Une Couronne de Branches starts out peacefully enough, a small choir embellished by piano, harp and flute. It's almost two minutes in when Civelli sets us up for a gear change with an ominous telegraphing growl and there's another minute before it truly shifts up. Tellingly, even when it does, the blastbeats and harsh vocals don't negate the soothing feel of the song until maybe five minutes in, which is only halfway for this one.

This one has another pastoral section before the choir finds full voice late in the song. It rolls right into the title track and its progression isn't entirely different, with a couple of peaks, the second of which features the choir rampant, but this is a two part piece, each of which runs closer to nine minutes than eight. The second part starts to change this approach with its much more vehement opening and its more lively pace throughout.

The other two epics are Crépuscule and Autumn Shore, but they take a rather different approach. The former plays up Civelli's harsh voice without much backing intensity except some drums, then that all fades away into a melodious pastoral setting. It does find full black metal intensity but in a succession of much more frequent bursts rather than a couple of patient peaks. The choirs do wait to build late in the song again though, as they do in Autumn Shore, which blisters right out of the gate with a gem of a sustained opening onslaught.

Autumn Shore is the heaviest song on the album, the most black metal, but it still feels inherently folk music and that's what I appreciate most about this band. Parts of the song—in this case, most parts of the song—are very loud and very fast, the traditional black metal wall of sound, but they serve as emphasis. The heart of this music is the second half, which often removes that emphasis.

It's fair to say that, if you played three songs from this album—Echoes of the Moss, Autumn Shore and Blomsterkransen—to someone who hadn't heard Cân Bardd before, they'd believe them to be not only by different artists but from different genres. Yet their sounds weave together wonderfully on this album. Thank you, Elcrost, for letting me know about this project.

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