When working on Faun‘s latest record Märchen & Mythen, I came across an undercurrent or two worth mentioning about this band. But those – understandably – steadfastly refused to integrate too well into the review. So here we are with yet another piece on this decidedly talented German Pagan Folk band.
And on the menu are – you probably guessed it – the birthing pains the band went through after the last major change of direction and its current and future implications.
The Change Game!
Starting with the refreshing 2013 record Von den Elben, the German Medieval and Pagan Folk band Faun dramatically changed course and focus. Away from a somewhat elitist underground Pagan Folk outfit to a more mainstream-oriented Folk Rock band. Albeit, still with a distinct medieval and pagan twist.
I guess the band around Oliver S. Tyr and Fiona Frewert figured that just serving their chosen elite forever would not get them very far. Financially and also career-wise. A pretty important part of this decision must have been pushed by their new label Universal Records as well. You know, those with that foul capitalist way of thinking that music can (and should) actually make you a mint or two.
Also, let’s not lose sight of the fact that landing a contract with one of the majors is a big deal. A game-changer and career-maker. Or breaker, depending on your view if your glass is half empty or half full.
And this spawned a major controversy with the established fan base.
Still today, you find commenters and journalists alike who will mourn the fact that a newer, fresher wind is blowing in the Faun arena. Many bemoan the lack of hypnotic and danceable beats, that kind of primeval kick so much needed after a day of stress. In other words, they look for some sort of pagan acid house beat by the roaring fire in the countryside.
Yet, Faun never quite excelled too much at their elitist game. On their early records, they often mixed too much woozy crap into some pretty decent tracks. Which – unfortunately – actually diluted a lot of the good material that they issued.
And besides, if you look for better excellence around that particular soundscape, you’ll find sturdier fare with the likes of Wardruna. Or – to cite a new one – Heilung, if you really fancy stomping and howling, complete with strobes. And to drive this point home, Faun sometimes gets assistance from the former to spiff up their quality some. Just check out Midgard‘s Odin.
Only a show, or was it a warranted controversy?
This pretty drawn-out fight raged on for an astonishingly long time. And sometimes it got so far out of hand to levels of advanced madness that the RMR deck crew popped loads of beer and had the popcorn crunching for many a day. Such a show must be enjoyed in style, right?
Heated emotions are one thing of course, but there’s no smoke without fire. And indeed, the root cause was the aforementioned massive change that the band decided to go through. This landed them slam in the dreaded and terrible mainstream for some. Or – to others – offered them a pot of gold waiting to be opened.
This is where bands like Versengold, Subway to Sally, Santiano, Die Streuner, Schandmaul and so on, dwell. Most of them with a decidedly much lighter and shallower fare on offer. One that the somewhat purist Faun crew would never attempt creating.
Until they did, that is.
And they did it with gusto and their usual total proficiency. A process that remarkably spawned – after Von den Elben – three additional records to date, Luna, Midgard, and Märchen & Mythen. Excluding the ‘best of…’ they released in between, of course, but this one don’t count.
The public immediately and fully embraced the ‘new’ Faun, though. Suddenly the band appeared on all sorts of outlets and gained a new and astonishing visibility. And a lot of notoriety that was just not there before.
This new direction netted the band significant success. In short, their more accessible style truly changed things for them. Faun did a felt gazillion of live concerts, released a score of records and singles, with some sitting squarely at gold or platinum level.
Plus, they became one of the pillars of the Medieval and Pagan Folk movement – at least in Germany. What’s more, Faun – a predominantly German-speaking band – also perform outside of their linguistic sphere. Which is – come to think of it – pretty rare.
Albeit that commercialization took its toll. We said it before, their current style more resembles a medievally flavored brand of Folk Rock than anything else these days. With all the colorful costumes and the necessary antics to match the theme.
So, Quo Vadis, Faun?
You see, I am a fan of Faun’s new, livelier style and have been since Von den Elben. But they need to have a care nonetheless.
The big distributors classify them bluntly as pop these days, which gotta hurt at least a little bit. And truly, some of their recent productions do sound like pop songs garnished with archaic instruments.
To drive this point home, YouTube’s autosuggestion at the end one of their videos wanted me to click on their 79 new pop videos.
By Loki and Thor’s awful hammer, that was one unpleasant ‘holy shit’ moment (see illustration). So, if they don’t pay attention, they’ll soon sound like dArtagnan and their ilk.
And that ain’t necessarily good.
You see, if I get the urge to swirl a few pints and enjoy a bit of lusty chanting on a medieval theme event, the current mainstream folks will suffice. Faun may have to resist Universal’s urges a bit better in the future, or they risk to end up in pop heaven a tad too prominently.
Their 2019 piece already showed a few signs that Faun works on a return to a folksier course. And this is a good thing. Let’s just hope that the push continues.