I’ve got a long history with Silent Stream of Godless Elegy, having first come across a single MP3 of theirs from a now long-defunct music trial site, (it was perfectly legit!), and was blown away by how great they were. For those not in the know, Silent Stream are probably the best folk-metal band you’ve never heard of. From the east of the Czech republic, they were mixing traditional folk music and extreme metal in the days where only a few other bands were in that space. To my mind, their material has always held up really well against the likes of Amorphis, but has never seemed to get the plaudits they deserve.
This is their seventh full length album since forming in 1995, and it retains many of the aspects of what makes them such a great band. Firstly, they’re not the usual twee folk-melody band that’s designed just to give metal heads something to sway along to and pretend to be pirates or some such. Silent Stream have a real gravity and some fantastic songwriting chops, mixing actual extreme metal, with the melancholic melodies running alongside. They have what you might call a doom/death core, but it’s much broader and less restrictive than that label would suggest. Boasting Cello, a Violin, gruff death vocals and clear, well-sung female vocals alongside the more typical instruments, Silent Stream have a broad palette to paint their songs with.
“Smutnice” is apparently a little known Czech word derived from “Sadness”, and roughly translates as “A Poem of Sadness”. It’s a fitting title, as the eight, weighty songs here all have a definite heft and feeling of melancholy. Yossi Sassi, ex of Orphaned Land produced and played instruments on the album, adding some of those trademark oriental sounds to the sonic mix. There are some absolute corking songs here too. “Ze Nevestou” (To The Bride – translation), for instance, starts with a chilling choir section, before morphing into a mid-tempo stomper, with female vocals leading the attack, with the delicate violin weaving alongside. An upbeat, almost celebratory chorus then gets lifted by almost progressive bass work. This relative optimism does not last, however, and the song collapses into a powerful and saddening outro, complete with impressive drum work.
It’s hard, and also unfair, to try and find quick and easy comparisons to the sound of this album. It’d be a tragedy if more English speaking listeners didn’t find their way to this platter though; it’s really an embarrassment of riches. Here and there the music can tend to be a little more mainstream than I remember them being, but no band can be in existence for this long and not change a little. For anyone with love for well crafted, excellently played and skilfully produced folk-tinged metal, this is a must have.
(8/10 Chris Davison)