Monday, June 29, 2020

Lumsk - "Troll" [2005]

Artist: Lumsk
Title: Troll
Genre: Folk Metal/Rock
Country: Norway
Year: 2005

Track List:
  1. Nøkken
  2. Dunker
  3. Åsgårdsreia
  4. Trolltind
  5. Allvis
  6. Perpålsa
  7. Blæster
  8. Byttingen
  9. Nidvisa (bonus)
Nowadays, the word "troll" is associated mostly with internet trolling, so it's about time to remind that legends about trolls are an important part of Scandiavian folklore, where a great lot of metal bands took their inspiration from. Lumsk aren't an exception, and they play an interesting mix of folk/viking metal in the vein of Storm and progressive rock, with beautiful female vocals by Stine-Mari Langstrand.

According to "Early in 2005, the band won the most by:Larm (a Norwegian music festival) prize money ever awarded, worth 500.000 NOK (about 62.500 €). That made their plans for the 2005 album "Troll" possible, including a high-quality video for the song "Trolltind"". While it may be quite different from most Nordic folk metal you're used to, and most of the songs aren't that catchy, it's a quite interesting release worth checking out:

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Bloody Woods - "The Lament" [2016]

Artist: Bloody Woods
Title: The Lament
Genre: Neofolk
Country: China
Year: 2016

Track List:
  1. Intro: Nuosu Epopoeia
  2. Souther
  3. The Lament
  4. A Sigh for Autumn
  5. A Cappella
  6. Outro: Fortress Forlorn
"Over the years Neo-folk has taken upon itself the imprint of various cultures encounter through its journeying. We present to you the Lament, to communicate our own experience of sorrow and beauty, death and ruin on this ravaged land, coated with nordic tradition, to tell of the melancholy of oriental instruments, of its power to set one free"
A follow-up to "Romanzen", "The Lament" is less of a "European" and more of a "Chinese" album (and if I'm not mistaken, it's the first Bloody Woods album to feature lyrics in Chinese), with less metal and more ambient influences. Honestly it's less impressive than the other albums by Bloody Woods, but by no means bad. Really wonder what their next album would sound like (if there will be any):

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Bloody Woods - "Romanzen" [2015]

Artist: Bloody Woods
Title: Romanzen
Genre: Neofolk
Country: China
Year: 2015

Track List:
  1. Intro: Die Ballade Der Loreley
  2. Im Tollen Wahn
  3. Love Story
  4. Der Wunde Ritter
  5. Blasses Angesicht
  6. Maliry
  7. It Won't Stop
  8. You Can Smile
  9. Doch Sie, Die Mich Am Meisten
  10. Wanderers Nachtlied
  11. Sonnet 39
  12. Berg Und Burgen
  13. Down By The Lake
After several years of hiatus, one of the best known Chinese neofolk acts Bloody Woods (not to be confused with the Indian metalcore band Bloodywood) has released a new full-length album in 2015, and it has a more Western European character than many actual European neofolk bands. I absolutely won't be suprised if such an album was released by a German band, because it features mostly ballad-like songs with lyrics based on the poetry of German Romanticism (in particular, Heinrich Heine).

It also has some metal influences (especially doom, which isn't surprsing given that the founder of Bloody Woods, Bai Shui, is also a member of a doom metal band Solitary Piligrim), which weren't present on their earlier releases. There are also some faster/danceable songs ("Maliry") and re-recorded versons of their early sons ("You Can Smile"). Overall, it's the best Bloody Woods release so far and definitely recommended to all the fellow lover of neofolk with lyrics in German (even if it's made in China, like pretty much everything nowadays):

Monday, June 22, 2020

Tautumeitas - s/t [2018]

Artist: Tautumeitas
Title: Tautumeitas
Genre: Folk, World Music
Country: Latvia
Year: 2018

Track List:
  1. Intro
  2. Sadziedami
  3. Pāde
  4. Raganu nakts
  5. Vainagu deja
  6. Bērziņš
  7. Pelīte
  8. Raudi raudi
  9. Sastdine
  10. Ūgas
  11. Bārainīte
  12. Aiz azara
  13. Dai citas meitas
If I understand correctly, Līgo is the Latvian equivalent of the Midsummer Eve (and it's as much of a major holiday there as it is in Nordic countries), and Raganu nakts (literally "witching night") is the night before it, being an equivalent to our Kupala night (although it's now celebrated on 7th of July here). Anyway, "Raganu nakts" is also the song about Līgo performed by an all-female folk band Tautumeitas which made them famous on YouTube:
This clip makes me want to participate in one of those Midsummer celebrations in my future travels (so far I've been only to the Kupala night celebration at the lake Svetloyar last year, but the weather was terrible). The whole debut album by Tautumeitas is worth checking out as well (my personal favourite track is "Aiz azara"). Out of everything that was posted on my blog before, stylistically it resembles Oyme more than anything else:

Альянс - "Сделано в белом" [1993]

Artist: Альянс
Title: Сделано в белом
Genre: Folk-Rock, World Music
Country: Russia
Year: 1993

Track List:
  1. Только с тобой
  2. Дальше дальше
  3. На Восток
  4. Эпиталама
  5. Возле твоей любви
  6. До самого неба
  7. Встаньте, братья!
  8. Смерти нет!
  9. Дева
  10. Сестра моя ночь
  11. Всадники
  12. Тува-1
  13. Тува-2
  14. Тува-3
  15. Баллада о горе 
While Alliance are mostly known as a synthpop band, they have experimented with many different genres, and their folk-rock album "Made in White" was even called the best world music album of 1993 in Europe. At that time, the band had already split up, but this album is certainly notable as one of the first world music releases in modern Russia, way predating bands like Theodor Bastard. They were also one of the first bands that have experimented with traditional Tuvan music and throat singing (tracks 12-14 on this album).

"Made in White" features mostly female vocals, performed by Inna Zhelannaya, who later became much better known as a solo artist (and a frontwoman of her own band Farlanders). It's a rather lengthy release, but certainly worth your time of you like soft rock with an ethno flavour:

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Альянс - "Звуки на заре" [1987]

Artist: Альянс
Title: Звуки на заре
Genre: Synthpop, New Wave
Country: USSR
Year: 1987

Track List:
  1. Фальстарт
  2. На заре
  3. День освобождения
  4. Порабощённые трудом
  5. Дайте огня!
  6. Падение - взлёт
  7. Вальс
  8. Когда печаль пройдёт...
So far this year was really terrible when it come to deaths of many important musicians, such as Genesis P-Orridge, Konstantin Ryabinov of GrOb, Gabi Delgado of DAF, Florian Schneider of Kraftwerk, and now Oleg Parastaev of Alliance.

The band was formed in 1981 and initially played ska and reggae, but later became more and more influenced by new wave, which was quickly gaining popularity in the mid-1980s Soviet Union. In 1984, Alliance among many other bands fell victim to the Chernenko's anti-rock campaign and were banned from any public performances. However, in 1986 they have reformed as a synthpop/new wave outfit, with Oleg Parastaev on keyboards. That was their "golden" lineup, but unfortunately it was short-lived: Parastaev left the band in 1988 and started his own new wave project called NRG, while Alliance became a female-fronted folk-rock band before finally splitting up in 1993.

They have reformed in 2008, but didn't gain much publicity until a decade later, when Oleg Parastaev has uploaded a live video of their most famous song "На заре" on his YouTube channel. By a coincidence, it happened during the Venezuelan crisis, and two of the band members in the video looked like younger Putin and Maduro to some viewers. Due to that, the video first went viral in Latin America, and later it became popular at their home in ex-USSR, since it fitted perfectly in the current wave of 80s synthpop nostalgia. After that, the band has released their first new album after 25 years of silence, and in February 2020 - another one, with mostly space-themed lyrics.

Sadly, both of their most important members are dead by now (their founding member Sergei Volodin died in 2017), and to most listeners they'll remain an one-hit wonder, but at least they finally got the recognition they deserve. R.I.P. Oleg Parastaev. He died at 5AM, right according to the lyrics of his best known song: "At dawn, the voices are calling me..." Well, let's say he hasn't died but called to leave the Earth and return to the cosmos he belongs to:

Friday, June 12, 2020

Hạc San - "Sét Đánh Ngang Trời" [2015]

Artist: Hạc San
Title: Sét Đánh Ngang Trời
Genre: Progressive Metal
Country: Vietnam
Year: 2015

Track List:
  1. Hỗn mang
  2. Dưới đáy trần gian
  3. Hoang tàn
  4. Tiều phu
  5. Kẻ phản bội
  6. Mũi tên đen
  7. Bí mật của người ra đi
  8. Tái sinh
  9. Ai oán
  10. Tiếng đàn hàm oan
  11. Sét đánh ngang trời
Metal is rare in Vietnam, let alone progressive metal, yet there was at least one band that have deserved the title of "Vietnamese Dream Theater". Unfortunately Hạc San seem to be defunct by now, yet they have left a very good concept album based on the story of Thạch Sanh. While the language barrier makes it hard to find more info about the band, and certainly is the reason why they're largely unknown outside Vietnam, this album has a couple of really great songs that seem to have received significant publicity at home:

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Sói Đen - "Chiến Tranh Và Hòa Bình" [2005]

Artist: Sói Đen (Black Wolf)
Title: Chiến Tranh Và Hòa Bình (War And Peace)
Genre: Heavy/Folk Metal
Country: Vietnam
Year: 2005

Track List:
  1. Vết tích chiến tranh
  2. 1975
  3. Vầng trăng sầu
  4. Sói đen (Blackwolf)
  5. Nhạc khúc hoà bình
  6. Đi tìm ánh sáng
  7. Lòng tự hào
  8. Lâu đài sói (The Castle of Wolf)
  9. Người chiến binh
War metal from Vietnam? Yes, it's a thing, even if by "war metal" here I mean bands that sound more like Sabaton rather than Blasphemy. Anyway, Vietman is definitely not a metal country, and most Vietnamese metal projects I've heard so far were playing quite generic lo-fi black metal (not to mention most of them actually were started by Vietnamese immigrants inother countries). This album is quite poorly produced too (which is understandable, though), but features a completely different kind of music - heavy metal with folk and alternative rock elements. Definitely an interesting release, despite all the production flaws.

Friday, June 5, 2020

District Unknown - "Anatomy of a 24 Hour Lifetime" [2014]

Artist: District Unknown
Title: Anatomy of a 24 Hour Lifetime
Genre: Progressive Metal/Rock
Country: Afghanistan
Year: 2014

Track List:
  1. Modern Nature
  2. Joy Versus Sorrow
  3. Two Seconds After the Blast
  4. Portraits
  5. Struggle
  6. A Cancer by Design
  7. Whisper in a Dream
  8. Requiescence
  9. Kill the Beast 
Apart from obvious fakes, District Unknown were the only metal band in Afghanistan (yes, I know Taarma also claims to be an Afghan band; the man behind the project is indeed Afghan but resides in Pakistan). They even have played live shows in Kabul, although they had to wear masks to conceal their identities. As of now, two of their former members have emigrated to UK and USA, and have started a new international metal project called Afreet.

The members of District Unknown called their music "psychedelic metal". Honestly there aren't that many metal parts on this album, and, unfortunately, there's a lot of ambient-like filler parts. The production is also not great (but much better than I have expected). There's a quite detailed review of "Anatomy of a 24 Hour Lifetime", and I agree with its author in that this LP has numerous flaws; however, the musicianship itself is definitely not unprofessional, and I appreciate the effort of recording a metal album in a such hostile environment.

Tears Of Fire - "Doomed Dome" [2016]

Artist: Tears Of Fire
Title: Doomed Dome
Genre: Funeral Doom Metal
Country: Iran/Germany
Year: 2016

Track List:
  1. شیدا شده‌ام [sheyda shodeam]
  2. دژ [Dejh]
  3. مجنون نبودم [Majnun Nabudom]
In comparison to most other Middle Eastern countries, metal (and underground music in general) is relatively popular in Iran, yet the country is by no means friendly to such music - so many Iranian metal musicians eventually emigrate, and this band isn't an exception. Tears of Fire were one of the first black metal bands in Iran (if not the very first), formed in 1998 and played their first concert an year later. While modern Iranian black metal scene is still small yet far from nonexistent, the Iranian society definitely wasn't ready to appreciate such kind of music 20 years ago, and, if the official story is to be believed, the band members were arrested after the aforementioned concert on July 8th, 1999.

They have disbanded shortly thereafter, but in 2016 their founding member decided to reform the band as an international project based in Germany. Now they play a pretty strange kind of funeral doom metal with oriental motives (although I don't have much to compare with, as the only other Iranian doom metal band I've listened to are 1000 Funerals). This release is certainly interesting but hard to get into (just like Iranian culture in general).

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Eyeless In Gaza [AM] - "Act I: The Protagonist" [2020]

Artist: Eyeless In Gaza
Title: Act I: The Protagonist
Genre: Atmospheric/Funeral Doom Metal
Country: Armenia
Year: 2020

Track List:
  1. The Protagonist
  2. Maelstrom
  3. Mournful Unconcern
  4. Madrigal
Named after the famous novel by Aldous Huxley, Eyeless In Gaza is a new one-man doom metal band from Armenia, a place not known for having a big metal scene. It's a side project of one of the members of Bread and Wine, a female-fronted "aesthetic doom" metal band whose music I found to be hard to get into. The debut album by Eyeless In Gaza, however, caught my attention from the first listen:
"The debut album by Eyeless in Gaza, a band from Armenia, presents a fusion of different styles and gives a fresh look at the genre. A harmonic combination of classical acoustic guitar, academic choral chants, and dark ambient interludes, as well as motifs of the epic funeral doom metal and black doom metal with variable vocals, gives birth to a real epic canvas filled with magic that tells about a personal experience, which can be expressed exclusively by the language of music.
Act I: The Protagonist is an abstract conceptual album, where each track is a stage of personal experience, existential thoughts about destruction as an idea of ​​a new beginning. This is a dreamy and tragic monologue about deep feelings of regret and humility that are melting within us"

P.S. There's also a British band under the same name whose description looks interesting: "veer[ing] crazily from filmic ambiance to rock and pop, industrial funk to avant-folk styles." Would check out them soon too.

Monday, June 1, 2020

Hopelessness - "Andromeda" [2016]

Artist: Hopelessness
Title: Andromeda
Genre: Atmospheric Doom Metal
Country: Morocco
Year: 2016

Track List:
  1. Rains & Tears
  2. Heavens
  3. In the Winter
  4. Oh Death
  5. Solitude
  6. I'll Be There 
A very pleasant instrumental doom metal album by an one-man band from Morocco of all places. The project has at least one more LP and several EPs, some of which feature vocals, but I like the instrumental tracks better. Great atmosphere, and fairly decent production for an underground project from North Africa.