The gods of music like to test bands in more ways than one. The necessity to make money with their tune is one of them. And this one is not always easy in this day and age of galloping digitization and streaming madness. Not losing their creative streak, lest the fan base will evaporate quickly and light on juicier targets is the next challenge. Or navigating around that pitch black, razor-sharp cliff that always appears for their sophomore album is the ultimate challenge. Many a band already wrecked their career on that particular rock, either because they ran out of ideas or because they actually tried to be way too inventive.
Kanseil already caused a considerable stir with the RMR deck crew, when they released their first 2015 studio album Doin Earde under Nemeton Records. Now you can imagine the state of alert around the officescape, when their 2nd and newest studio album Fulische (sparks) appeared on our review list.
The band originates from the upper reaches of the Veneto in Italy, around Fregona to be precise. A small portion of the populace still speaks a medieval type of German called the Cimbrian Dialect up there. How did this get there? Some theories indicate a migration by German speaking populations into the region from as early as 1050 AD, others put this migration thing to the 1700’s or so. To make matters worse, some purists state that the common name originates from the Cimbri, a Germanic tribe from Jutland that caused the Romans considerable trouble back in time. And whose badly defeated remnants supposedly still populate the area. Nothing is ever certain, right? But all of that rich heritage for sure provides enough material for Kanseil to populate this and many more albums going forward.
Kanseil were always difficult to catalogue on style. Medieval Folk Metal is probably the safest denomination, but a somewhat pigheaded brand at that. In fact, they boast a folk-laden mix of melodic Death and Black Metal at the base. With a fair portion of post metal to boot. The beat reminisces with the likes of Eluveitie, VallorcH (the band) and a slice of Huldre as the instrumentation goes. But this is where the comparisons stop. The band has no problem to stray outside of the battle lines drawn by the mighty mainstream police. And that’s a good streak to have.
Fulische still remains decidedly Kanseil, just the way we know it. Well, more or less, but more to that later. The album serves this typical, strangely disjointed fare of archaic instruments, kind of heavy on bag pipes and complete with pretty sturdy, highly metallic guitar work. I do like the Post Metal type solos that all of a sudden appear, as in Orcolat. This adds nicely to the way sturdier and better quality growls that alternate with clear voice on almost all tracks. Vallorch (the track) features guest vocalist Sara Tacchetto and Paolo Pesce on Hurdy-Gurdy, both from the aforementioned Folk Metal band VallorcH. Very neatly done, that.
Also, Kanseil still like to cover historic events that happened around their homestead. Like the story of La Battaglia del Solstizio. A decisive victory against the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the first world war, also called the Second Battle of the Piave River.
On the downside, a certain laid-back, audacious professionalism installed itself since Doin Earde came on-line. This is not bad in itself, I agree. But gone are the intensively prickly and coarse, yet deliciously crunchy, kind of roughly hewn chunks of metal. The ones that felt like being around a fire at night in this wild land up there, with the band lustily chanting away nearby. The tracks that kept you on edge and made you scratch your head in wonder. Before you went for more of this decidedly uncommon brand of metal.
This more refined and – I daresay – quieter style lost some of that refreshing youthfulness in the corridors of time. Whilst this may be good in a geeky kind of way, the absence of some of Kanseil‘s earlier freshness may not be a very good portent of things yet to come. Also, I detect a tendency to chant in Italian to the detriment of the dialect. And this is definitely a pity.
So, did Kanseil manage to sail around that dreaded sophomore cliff? Well, the band decided to pretty much plough on with the style already established on Doin Earde. And this is definitely not a bad decision in itself. Fulische will thus not deliver anything breathtakingly new, but keeps the fan base on a safe footing of earthy metals. The sounds of comfort, if you will.
Fulische is a pretty cool album, rocking way off the beaten path and made by metal bards that somehow got stuck in the wrong era. Yet, with a portion of the former groove out the door and a more laid-back style being projected, the overall impression is a trifle less enthusiastic than before. So, for the next record their tune needs to jack up this infamous oomph-o-meter. Or the sparks that this album so aptly depicts may very well cease to fly.
Fulische will release on 25 May 2018 in Europe and 8 June 2018 in the US.
[Editor’s note: The record successfully made it onto the Intermittent Digest – Tome VII. Contrats!]