Here's another submission, this time of a pagan metal album from Czechia, Odraedir based in and around the capital of Prague. It's their second album, following 2017's Legends of the Dark Times, and it clearly leans towards symphonic folk metal from its intro. There's a narration to set us up to expect something epic and that grows into fiddles, flutes and bagpipes against a symphonic swell. Oddly, the rest of the album tones down that symphonic folk aspect, settling for heavy metal with a prominent folk flavour. Those flutes rarely go away and that's a good thing.
How heavy that heavy metal is depends on the song. There are points in the opening track proper, The Inception, where they think about melodic death metal. However, even though the vocals have a growling aspect, they remain intelligible and perhaps halfway between clean and harsh. There's also not much bass in the mix to deepen the sound, especially this far into the new millennium, so this is clean, crisp metal that never feels extreme, however fast it's paced, and those flutes aren't ever far from the foreground.
That folk aspect means that this is always lively but they can find grooves that are reminiscent of certain forms of lively. Sections of Back to the Void have a Viking metal feel to them, as if we're on a longship that's speeding through the North Sea. Some of the backing vocals add to that and the guitars later on and early in Driven by Lust have a progression to them that reminds very much of Iron Maiden, though the latter is more vehement before and after it, maybe somewhere between Alestorm and Cradle of Filth, a feel that moves on to Hand of Justice and onward. In between, I'd call out some Helloween touches to Deep Sea Slumber, though it again flirts with Viking metal.
That epic feel that the intro promised starts to creep in towards the very end of the album. Glacial Storm at track ten is the longest song by that point, albeit still under six minutes, and it has plenty of opportunity to breathe. Some of my favourite guitarwork arrives in its second half. And then, it all wraps up with The Last Say, which is a minute and a half longer again, and includes a clean guest vocal from Anna Pavlů of Czech gothic/folk metal band Thanallian. She doesn't take over the song, but she starts it out and she returns midway through and at the end, where the male and female voices sound great together.
All in all, it's very agreeable stuff. The opening narration might be a bit much, because I was never convinced that there was a concept in play, but the instrumental aspect is lovely and the riffing is infectious as soon as we get into the tracks proper. I enjoyed every track while it was playing, even on a third or fourth time through. Dub's vocals are a rather friendly form of harsh, the guitarwork from Křen and Mtyperys is delightful and the folk touches overlaid are always a welcome texture that doesn't just decorate the music but often deepens it too.
The flaw is that, even after a few times through, none of these songs really leap out to be noticed specially. There isn't a standout track here, let alone two or three, even the more epic ones at the end as tends to be the case with Maiden. However, on the flipside, none of the ten full songs feel like they let the side down on a first listen or get old by a third or fourth. It's just highly consistent stuff and that's never a bad thing for an entire fifty minute album to be. I liked it on my first time through and I like it a little more once it became familiar over those repeat listens.
If you twisted my arm and forced me to pick a favourite track, I'd have to plump for the ones in the middle of the album, Driven by Lust and Hand of Justice. They're the most overt Alestorm meets Cradle of Filth tracks and I dig that vibe. There's also more to each of those tracks to elevate them, the Maiden guitarwork in the former and some almost Balkan acoustic guitar in the latter. It's not a zither but it does much the same job and it adds an unusual flavour to an already strong song. It doesn't take the edge by much though and I might have a different answer for you tomorrow.
I'd happily listen to another Odraedir album, though their track record suggests that it might be a while coming. They were formed back in 2009 with a 2011 demo and official releases by 2013, but it took eight years for them to put out an album and six more to follow it up with this one. There was a single and an EP in between, but all three tracks included on them are on this album, so it's not a place to look for bonus material. Here's to hoping we see another full album before 2029. Thanks, folks!