Irminsul are one of those bands whose sound consists on a mix of folk, pagan and viking metal, but unlike a lot of others practicing these styles, they’ve also managed to enter the realms of progressive music in their second release “Fäder”. For a band which spent so little time on the road, essentially being a studio outlet, they already show a respectable amount of musical skills, even if they didn’t went through many of the trials and tribulations which made so many bands develop their craft in live settings.
“Fäder” has all the elements that folk metal fans love in the genre: big epic songs sounding like battle preparation chants, songs written around traditional folklore melodies and a very heightened sense of musicianship from the band. This album is filled with great folk/viking metal songs like “Stupagreven”, “Nattramn”, “Hagridden” and “Letters from the Past”, but its best song is easily “Clades Variana”, one of the record’s two 10 minute songs, which embodies all of the traits mentioned above, sounding like a call to arms with several moments building up towards an epic crescendo. Various rhythmic shifts, time changes and constant permutations between acoustic and heavy sections make the band’s progressive edge very noticeable throughout the album’s diverse moments.
However, two numbers deserve other kind of attention, those being “Olbank” and “Neverending Story”, the closing songs. “Olbank” represents a curious piece because it sounds just like a traditional Swedish folk song. The double bass drums and rhythm guitars are what turn this into a metal song, otherwise it’s something we could have easily heard in a drunk singing session between the locals at a Swedish tavern! Fun, but not essential, as is the case with the “Neverending Story” cover, which is basically a folk metal version of the 80’s movie main theme. Though its technically well executed with some decent guitar shredding, it doesn’t add that much to the album.
Even with the high musicianship standards displayed throughout its songs, “Fäder” isn’t ridden of certain negative points. The production doesn’t make justice to some of its material, and made everything sound a bit too thin and compressed. The mixing could’ve been better executed as well, and this is clearly audible on the guitar solos, which occasionally have to punch through a wall of rhythm guitars to be discernible. Musically speaking, the solos’ execution could have been more focused and less “shoot everything that moves”. The choruses could have been stronger and also if the album had a lesser emphasis on a black metal type of vocals it certainly wouldn’t have done these songs any harm.
Still, Irminsul show us that they’re not a one-trick-pony kind of band, even by folk metal’s standards, demonstrating it through an effective combination of violins, acoustic guitars, piano, keyboards and involving percussive patterns in their songs. Their intertwining of catchy riffs, clever rhythms and beautiful traditional folk melodies with enchanting female choirs make “Fäder” a worthy listen. It’s definitely a band thinking forward, risking a bit more creatively and mixing up different options, and they could very well turn out to be one of the genre’s leaders in the following years. An album and band to look upon in the future.
(8/10 Luis Alves)