Some bands truly like that balancing act – and most are good at it, too. That gallivanting about those gazillions of metal flavors to concoct something of their own making. They don’t necessarily invent anything new, but those records often hit you with a rock-solid metal avalanche.
Records of substance that provide that metallic manna any metalhead craves. The real thing, not watery remnants of a thing called metal long ago.
Often you find those pieces with bands featuring some fantasy theme that can range from Tolkien’s brave warriors to unicorns in space. And they’re fun to listen to until your neck falls off from constant headbanging. Usually.
Midgard‘s Tales of Kreia truly is one of those records. Folk Metal is their credo, they said. Yet, the stuff they strut is somewhere in the midst of Ensiferum, old-style Varg1), and a goodly dose of Eluveitie with a few hints at Finntroll and their ilk.
I told ye, they don’t invent anything new, didn’t I? These bands will take what fits and mix well. Like some demonically possessed bartender who makes metal cocktails out of different styles.
Frankly, right from the onset Tales feels like one of those props. And I don’t mean that in a bad way. First Midgard hit you with a short blurb of faux-folk. Just to have an excuse to fan the bright-blue flames of that corny thrash-goes-Power-Metal thing later on. And delivered at full speed too, with a power that will hit ye like a friggin’ freight train.
The Horde may not necessarily be a good example. The track comes with a mid-tempo meaty beat. But the first track – Necromancer – does that slow/fast thing pretty well. Only that this time they forgot that folk should be part of their theme. And replaced it with Dani Filth’s greedy screams and some sort of a Celtic undertone.
Yet, Tales of Kreia really lets loose once Velmehazerun Dolian hits that metal road. Where the aforementioned The Horde tries to impress with some female wailing and complicated riff patterns, Dolian just whips up a metal storm. No pretension that this should be folk or some other vile filler material, they just go for the jugular with pure fucking metal. This is some top-notch alloy that will crown itself with one superb solo by about midpoint. In a way, this track really showcases what this band can do once they really build up a sweat.
Yet, a certain weirdness kinda wafts about the record’s soundscape after a while. In its unending wisdom, the band anointed (almost) each track with an English name. But the band screams them lyrics out into the open in their Ukrainian mother tongue. And that – folks – is truly bizarre.
The above notwithstanding, Tales often likes to sail on those soaring riffs straight from Viking Metal. In between all of that thrashy power, that is, just to disintegrate into some type of proto metalcore for some short moments. Then again, the band injects some typical Slavic ambient ditties into the midst of all that harsh steel, a realm usually occupied by their more melodic brethren from Russia.
In short, this whole variation showcases a band with a mojo to dream for. Roman Kuznietsov‘s riffs and solos are often otherworldly and perfectly sync with Klym Apalkov rasps, screams, and clears. So much so that on some of that stuff, the crew here spent way too much time.
Yet, you see, true kickers in this metal mix are few and far between. Necromancer, Velmehazerun Dolian, or – again – Reaper come to mind. Those that deliver an irresistible momentum that we could hardly get away from. Whereas other tracks kinda miss that energy, that little jolt that will have the music hall roaring back without fail. Added to that, the folk part in all that metal often goes missing, even if Elven Blade tries to pipe us to cheesy fantasy nirvana. Just sayin’. But hey, why not, right? It has been done before.
So, let’s cinch a wrapper around all this.
Tales of Kreia delivers a red-hot piece of first-rate metal for the connoisseur. Rough, scratchy, steely-edged, varied, and – at times – folksy to a point without being too cheesy. A truly complex and utterly enjoyable piece that will demand your full attention.
If only the band could decide on what course their ship should sail on. Metal seriously grounded in folk, or simply scream thrashily about the stage like an early Hetfield2)?
But here’s my point, we don’t need a second Metallica. But mixing some real archaic folk consistently onto some bedrock, highly intense, and dangerously overheated metal would probably kick some of their brethren3) out of the way and make space for some new, promising talent. And hey, the band called itself Midgard, so why not live up to its calling? Nomen est omen, after all.
Or in other words, they got promise, and we hunger for more.
Ed’s note: Oh, and if you wish to learn more about other Ukrainian bands out there, try this.