After their last release, Orphic Gold Leaves, I expressed an interest in seeing how this German trio developed. So here we are. Firstly you have to be pretty astounded by the quality of the packaging in this. Again, as with the previous EP it looks absolutely gorgeous and beautifully put together.
Does the content stand up?
Well firstly the oddities from the previous EP remain. This contains both the English and the native German versions of the album and once again I will concentrate on the English version unusually as I generally prefer a band’s native tongue but I find English works better with the music. Secondly Caro’s very precise intonation thankfully remains as it is full of character and she has a fine, and distinctive voice.
Oh and this was supposed to be an EP but I’m not sure it is with 7 songs and an intro and a different name. But there again it does clock in at under twenty five minutes. Mini album? Who knows.
After a fully dramatic spoken intro, Grendel’s Syster launch into the sound I remember well: A slow, doom riven riff on ‘Vishnu’s Third Stride’ with a huge folk feel to it and the strident vocal delivery. It shifts gear easily and finds a good canter and there is a memorable melody wrapped around it. The lyrics sound a little laboured initially but it’s easy to find their fantastical, phantasmagorical charm. It is thoroughly charming.
‘Little Wildling Bird’ follows easily and with shifts and turns in the tempo and the call-back of vocal lines in a very traditional folk manner it is easy to just let it all dance around you.
I’ll let you wander through this book of tales in your own time but I must mention the final song ‘Cairns’. A lovely unaccompanied, multi-layered vocal song beautifully arranged and both cruel and enthralling in the lyrics. A lovely finale.
I think with Grendel’s Syster there is, for some of us, a little hump to overcome, a culture shock maybe, but once over that the songs are so wonderfully accessible. It is so clear that there is now so much to like here and this is the sound of the band flowering. This is folk rock gone doom, solid riffs to be sure but nothing to crush the magical lightness from the songs. Wonderful guitar leads sew their glittering gold thread in and out of the riff and the drumming keeps the jaunty air up and flicks across the tempos with a neat dexterity. The sound is fresher than the previous EP for me, bringing out the energy of the songs far, far better and there’s a better back fill on the riffs too without making them too heavy. While the vocals will take newcomers a little while to feel comfortable with, you will trust me and when you do you will fall just a little in love with them. They just make me smile with their folky soul and those magical, often Arthurian in feel lyrics spinning tales so easily from their lips. Entrancing.
If you need comparisons I still think they have something akin to Slough Feg’s approach to tempos, changes and compact song-writing, just lighter. With a little of Manilla Road maybe just in style, and some Corsair in the lead breaks they bring sunlight and pastoral beauty to you but always the cobwebs and shadows of the deeper woods and the red in tooth and claw of nature and witchcraft lurk. For some reason as well I can’t shake a little hint of Coven here too.
Ah whatever. I am so glad I got to hear this. Different, sweet, cruel, romantic and epic. Yeah, I think I’m very glad and I’m sure many of you will be when you give yourself the treat of listening to Grendel’s Syster.