FrakA traditional Swiss folk band with links to the fabulous Eluveitie? How hard can that be to review? “Yeah, no problem Mr. Editor, send that one over and I’ll sort it”. Bollocks. How I soon regretted those ill-chosen words. All that cocky assuredness drained away like melting Alpine snow, and all it took was one listen to “Landlieder & Fromdländler”. Why? Well I was greeted by an album that is new interpretations of traditional Swiss folk songs, along with their own compositions inspired by myths and legends from Central Switzerland, all sung in Swiss German. Oh joy…

It’s not Metal – we can get that out of the way straight away, so what else do we know about them? This is their fourth record, the band class themselves as “Ur-Folk” whatever that is, and they had a bash at entering the Eurovision song contest in 2011, but didn’t qualify…and that probably says more to the uninitiated than I intended…so let’s quickly move on to the music. It is a Folk blend and to be blunt most songs fall into 3 categories;

  1. Traditional Folk-inspired songs sporting mainly a low Gothic-style vocal, that sounds worryingly like Leonard Cohen on ‘Luegid vo Bärg ond Tal’ (shudder) but generally seems to be a cross between Steeleye Span and latter-day Beseech, zapped back in time and told to make do with whatever instruments they can craft themselves (‘Gämsjäger’ and ‘Klarydä’ for instance).
  2. Pretty damn fine melancholic Folk Rock like the sombre ‘PfaffechäIleri’ and ‘Simelibärg’, and especially the more Eluveitie inspired ‘D’Züüsler’ (“Evocation I” album that is), which is probably the finest song on the album.
  3. Y’know that band on the film Nightmare Before Christmas that use an accordion but manage to make it sound sinister as well as maudlin? ‘Fontannegsecht’ and ‘ S’Totescheff am Börgestock’ I think you’ll find!

Actually, there are of course exceptions, but they are made even harder to grasp by the Swiss German lyrics. There are a couple of songs that are basically a deep voiced chap just talking in an unfamiliar language over the top of some nice Folky backing – he could be orating a fine, heartfelt lament or ordering a Pizza – most of the rest of the world wouldn’t have a clue. And unfortunately there are the “humorous” tracks. ‘ Zoge am Boge’ and ‘Wieso semmer eso?’ are probably HILARIOUS if you speak the lingo…though I suspect not. The Wurzels weren’t funny in the UK in the 70’s and this just sounds like a German/Austrian/Swiss version of them. And nobody wants that…

So can I justify this album on a Metal webzine? No, not really, other than as I have said before about other bands – it is aimed at, and of interest to Metal fans because we are one of the few fans with the open-mindedness to entertain it. And of course there are Metal-band associated members. But really, don’t expect anything like Eluveitie…or for that matter Fejd. It’s a modern-day Swiss Folk album really which I gather was the band’s intention all along so that’s fine.

(6/10  Andy Barker)