A few years back, the German Medieval Folk band Faun suddenly reached into that box of magic wonders. This deep and mysterious magician’s hat that will always remain elusive of its contents. Until the show is over and the last trick is consumed.
And out came the 2013 record Von den Elben. A pretty cool and truly juicy record. One that nobody expected to be that – mainstream. Yes, you heard that right. A new style and direction that would be reinforced one year later in Luna. And the full monty in German language to boot.
But let’s proceed one step at a time.
As you may imagine, the purists really foamed at the mouth over this release. Von den Elben was one of those perfect storms. For this rewrite of our former piece, I revisited all these reviews and comment columns. And maybe I shouldn’t have.
Because by the holy medieval fucking cow, folks. There are limits to everything.
There truly is a bunch of reviewers and commenters out there who question other people’s IQ over like or dislike of a musical style or interpretation. Simply put, because folks don’t appreciate Faun‘s former incarnation. In other words, only dumbasses will fail to appreciate the wailing and howling. And that is a level of arrogance that I have seldom seen expressed quite that way to date.
These people truly need to get a grip on themselves. And you know what? Yours truly did not and still does not like Faun‘s old and archaic embodiment. A few exceptions notwithstanding, like the early Licht for instance. You’ll find by far better outfits out there that really hit you with Thor’s proverbial Warhammer and give you your money’s worth. Ideologically challenged intellectual bullshitting just does not do, it just won’t.
Well, the abuse went so far that Oliver S. Tyr issued an official statement on Faun‘s Facebook account. And he was right to do so. After all, if you go for brutal change like that, you will inevitably win and lose some. Only that it would get to such levels of abuse is truly astonishing.
But back to Von den Elben.
Anger issues aside, the fans are correct when they accuse Faun of blatantly suing for the vile mainstream. Universal probably got its steely hooks into the band’s side and started to change things. And in a way, I have some understanding for some of the critical points made.
First, things took a turn towards some sweetishly cheesy Folk Rock brand that we all already saw somewhere else, like in Wenn Wir Uns Wiedersehn. Then you’ll find a whole bunch of covers that fatten up the tracklist. Like Schrei es in die Winde, the remake of Eluveitie’s Omnos, which – come to think of it – sounds pretty neat. As opposed to Subway to Sally’s Minne Duett, which is nothing else than a pretty simplistic copy of Minne, the original.
It does not stop there either. Von den Elben – the title song – is actually a remake in contemporary German of the same track originally from Licht (2003). Then we got this tired reincarnation called Wilde Rose, scraped off the traditional Irish vibe Siúil a Rúin.
So, damn. All of them naysayers were on the warpath for all the good reasons after all? Well, not quite. Von den Elben is fraught with filler material, true. Stuff that should not exist in a new and vibrant direction a band wants to embark on.
But this is only half the story. All of the above abject sinning notwithstanding, Faun delivered an example of outstanding musicianship. Von den Elben won’t serve you a single note out of place, not one beat astray. And their tunes are delivered with a flourish and delicious gusto that should make most of their contemporaries go pale with envy.
And this is what the ‘new’ fan crowd liked. That energy, stellar craftmanship and a few tunes that truly made you want more of a band in its prime. Mit dem Wind, Diese Kalte Nacht, the aforementioned Von den Elben, Schrei es in die Winde, or again Thymian & Rosmarin are all pretty outstanding tracks. Songs that truly embody the essence of that record.
It is of course also a fact that Faun veered off the trve path of Pagan Folk and entered commercial gehenna with that mix of Folk and watery, sweetish Medieval Folk Rock. Or how else could we explain away this beery Santiano tune Tanz Mit Mir, for which this very band brought in two of its members?
Yep, that’s true.
Adding to all the sins already listed, Von den Elben includes a friggin’ army of guest musicians. As if by throwing a fair share of Babylon in for good measure, you actually can woe the die-hard fans.
But by and large, Von den Elben is and remains an inspirational album. One that exudes a positive drive, a very precise production that will be able to dazzle the listener. It is also a record of a band that is not quite sure of its new direction yet. Just too many outside influences were allowed onto this album, which in a way pollutes the whole thing.
Yet, this does not take away from the allure the record projects. I truly liked the jaunts into a more poppy world. One without worry to ‘get the right medieval sound’. Because guess what, there isn’t any. Apart from a few songs from that period that actually survived.
And the more bands like to reach back in time, this elusive pagan sound will be whatever those folks want it to be. Which sometimes leads to a lot of unseemly weirdness that our weighty past doesn’t really deserve.
In the end, Von den Elben is a finely tuned and finely spiced piece of work. One that this crew – with the exception of one or two tracks – will wholeheartedly recommend.
Oh and for you tree-huggers out there that still fret with your fate, you may want to hit up Wardruna, or again the folks from Heilung or Huldre. That might give you some relief, until and maybe Faun will remember their calling and return to base.
But until that happens, do enjoy this record and – by all means – check out their future work too. They’ll keep it up, I promise.