My Warhorns connection continues it seems. Typically though I missed Atorc when they played last year, and though they didn’t play this year I’m sure I spotted one of them. Wrong way round as usual. Anyway as the title of this suggests they are folk metal (and their previous debut EP was Pure Folking Metal). In a bright fun cartoonist cover it promises a perky listen at least.
After a neat keyboard intro with a fair Bal-Sagoth feel to it we get launched into ‘There Will Be Blood’. This is a spritely and catchy tune, some nice guitar work and again with that slight and less pompous Bal-Sagoth gone folk feel to it, maybe a little Nightwish too. The lead vocals have a bit of that Sellsword touch; high and clear, good range, and when they get into the harmonies with the backing vocals the sound is superb. With a great chorus it’s a fine start I have to say.
We then lurch into pirate metal territory with ‘Crossbones’ which is OK (he says grumpily), a fair jig which I’m sure will go down great live but lacks the raw emotion of the opener. Staying piratical we then have ‘Scurvy Schemes’ to contend with; an instrumental which for the first time really highlights some fantastic interplay between lead guitar and the fiddle, it is actually a fine song, full of confidence, feeling and class.
This improves even more on the darker, harder ‘Sons Of Ragnar’. Great harmony vocals and keys, varied lead vocals and again with a superb relationship between fiddle and guitar. I actually think this is terrific and even get goosebumps, which is always a great sign.
‘Boudicca’s Revenge’ however is a little odd. Firstly a little about the overall production here: Generally it’s plain, a little flat maybe but perfectly serviceable and even if it leaves some parts a little raw it doesn’t detract too much. Pretty much what you usually get with a self release. This song though sounds like it’s from a different session – subdued and muffled it does nothing for the song, which particularly in the unengaging chorus needs a little help despite some great fiddle and guitar work again.
‘Winter Solstice’ a melancholy and sweet little fiddle and guitar interlude raises things again before brightening out into a rampant little run called ‘The Tavern Song’ which bounces on drunkenly into the night.
I’m not going to deny this is a little rough around the edges here and there but it is thoroughly engaging nonetheless. The vocals are great, particularly when harmonizing with the backing vocals. There is a real bounce to the drum and bass, a nice depth that stops things floating away. The fiddle and guitar work though I have to pick out; the interplay and support is exemplary and like the harmony vocals offers so much possibility in terms of arrangements. Some of the best I’ve heard in an age.
If folk metal is your thing, give Atorc a damned good listen. There is not just real promise here but ambition in arrangements and a knack for hooks that take an age to shake out.