Finally. Some folk-infused metal with iron running through its veins. I mean, imagine we’re walking through the dark pagan forest with nothing at our sides but sharpened blades, surrounded by enemies who want to take our wives and sell our children into slavery… Put the flute and the mandolin away, for Christ’s sake! Furrow your brow, invoke those bearded war gods and draw your sword, my friend! (I know I know, inappropriate, but does anyone really say ‘for Odin’s sake’?)

Too many folk metal bands have been happy to frolic in a cartoon-like land of plastic swords while regurgitating the same album year after year – or else supplement song writing might with instruments you’ve never heard of (but which normally sound a bit like tin whistles or banjos). The joke has long worn thin if it was even funny or entertaining in the first place. Until recently it has mostly been pagan black metal bands that could be relied on to deliver ‘Viking’, folk or pagan music with any real maturity and atmosphere (of which there are too many decent ones to name here). Luckily others are taking their responsibilities equally seriously. Finsterforst have achieved what has always been possible with folk metal but rarely executed.

First album Weltenkraft is pretty folk heavy but even when it begins to sound like Finntroll on speed it still has twists and turns that show a depth beyond the norm. By the second full length … Zum Tode Hin the sound was taken to a whole new level, boundaries were pushed – along with the song lengths. But Rastlos shows the band’s potential unleashed. It leaves nothing of the heathen sound behind but has more in common with menacingly dark Viking metal bands like Thyrfing than it has with the jiggery-pokery (with the emphasis on the word jig) of others which shall remain nameless but whose popularity I have never fathomed. Nichts als Asche begins with dark rumbling thunder and flutes echoing across the forest (faintly, I emphasise) before a dense, equally dark and thundering riff kicks in. Triumphant guitars follow and what sounds like a chanting war band backed by the entire bass end of an orchestra. After just three minutes Rastlos has sold itself and while the tracks are long (I seem to be finding myself saying that a lot recently) there’s a lot to be said for piling on the minutes when things sound this good. To most of us it will simply feed the imagination.

It’s difficult to explain how good it sounds to pick up something like this from what has in my humble opinion become a pretty tiresome and unadventurous sub-genre. There are even some great clean vocals amid the gravelly growls showcased particularly well on the fourth track Stirbt Zuletzt, a bellowing ode to the Black Forest( reminds me of a few other Saxony-based bands from the underground label Einheit Productions who produced their second album). There are still plenty of accordion-laden refrains for the truly addicted but it’s watered down again from …Zum Tode Hin. And with a 22 minute epic like Flammenrausch to round things off (complete with additional 2 minute rain-soaked intro Rast) Rastlos becomes a mighty, impregnable, forest-bound fortress of an album.

(8.5/10 Reverend Darkstanley)