Tuesday 7 May 2024

Feuerschwanz - Warriors (2024)

Country: Germany
Style: Folk Metal
Rating: 8/10
Release Date: 19 Apr 2024
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I could have sworn blind that I reviewed the previous Feuerschwanz album, but apparently I didn't. Maybe I'm mixing them up with another German comedic mediaeval rock band turned serious folk metal band after signing for Napalm in 2019. This is their fifth album since that point, one arriving each year, even during the pandemic, but it's a little different for a couple of reasons. For one, it's mostly not new, being a sort of greatest hits of their Napalm era, plus a cover and a couple of new tracks, but reworked to serve as their first entirely English language release. Most of these songs are therefore recent but not new and only sung until now in German. Some feature guests.

Given that it's a decent album on a first listen, all delivered in a consistent lively folk metal style, but a real grower on repeats, it suggests that these recent Napalm albums have featured plenty of excellent material. What's more, the best song on offer is arguably one of the new tracks, The Unholy Grail. I say "arguably", because these dozen songs feature such a consistent approach that it's always going to come down to personal choice. Generally speaking, listen to any one track. If it works for you, then all twelve will; if it doesn't, none of the others are going to win you over.

Personally, I think The Unholy Grail flows the best with the most successful melodies. That's a huge chorus for sure. However, The Forgotten Commandment isn't far behind it, as the title track to Das elfte Gebot in 2020. Wardwarf, formerly Kampfzweg on the same album, is right up there too, as is the opener, Highlander, formerly on last year's Fegefeuer. All that said, I'm going off a succession of listens today. I may give you completely different songs toorrow. Right now, Song of Ice and Fire, also from Fegefeuer, is growing on me substantially and who knows what's going to follow it.

All told, I believe there are five tracks from Fegefeuer, a couple from Memento Mori in 2021 and a couple more from Das elfte Gebot. Then there's a cover, Valhalla Calling, formerly by Gavin Dunne, who goes by Miracle of Sound, an Irish singer/songwriter who creates music primarily about video games. That leaves the two new tracks, which I believe are Circlepit of Hell and The Unholy Grail.

The guests appear on the even numbered tracks, for some reason, and they're all vocalists, even if they play instruments in their own bands. The Unholy Grail features Dominum and Orden Ogan, in other words Felix Heldt and Seeb Levermann. Their power metal approach fits well here, because this is primarily clean up tempo folk metal. Chris Harms of Lord of the Lost shows up on Memento Mori, which means that there's a gothic undertone to it in the lively Sisters of Mercy vein. Hardly surprisingly, Francesco Cavalleri from Italian power metallers Wind Rose guests on Wardwarf, an obvious choice that works. That leaves Patty Gurdy on Song of Ice and Fire; she's apparently best known for hurdy gurdy covers on YouTube.

There's not a lot to say about any of these songs that couldn't be said about them all, namely that they get down to business quickly; deliver three minutes of melodic power with violin, hurdy gurdy and bagpipes an integral part of the assault; and get out of the way for the next one right coming behind it. The vast majority of it is sung clean and heroic in surprisingly unaccented English for a band known for singing in German for a couple of decades, but the backing vocals sometimes slip into a slight harsh delivery. Given that Feuerschwanz heavied up when they signed for Napalm, it seems telling that the crunchy metal guitars are fundamental nowadays, because their absence is obvious when they take a backseat for a verse during Memento Mori.

That said, there are some notable intros, most obviously Wardwarf, which launches neatly with a sense of both nuance and power, and Bastard of Asgard, which opens up rather like Iron Maiden taking on folk metal. None of the intros are long, as we might expect for three minute songs, but they set the stage well and continue to shape the songs after they bulk up. It's also worth adding that a number of these songs tie into pop culture, not only the Assassin's Creed influenced cover. Highlander is about that movie; Song of Ice and Fire is about that series, which you may know as Game of Thrones; and there's a memorable Lovecraft stanza in The Forgotten Commandment. It makes me wonder how many other songs tie to pop culture that I simply don't recognise.

And that's about it, I guess. This is strong stuff that sounds entirely like German folk metal even if we don't know that it's German folk metal. It tells me that I really ought to check out the previous four Feuerschwanz albums for Napalm, because I haven't done that even if I thought I had.

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