Sunday, October 25, 2009
Folkstorm - De Stemmen Van Het Woud
Folkstorm's debut album, an idealic wooden carving, will cater to the black metal fans dreaming of those days spent idling away the hours underneath the their favorite pine listening to Empyrium's ...A Wintersunset while sipping down sweet tea and reading William Wordsworth until the bright sun parted and the lunar glow swept over their secret residence. Fans of Drudkh's first two defining albums will also find a whole lot of space to play as their world disappears behind misty fields and foggy copses. The immediate enjoyment of opener "November's" pastoral melody and minimalist approach sets the tone for the rest of "De Stemmen Van Het Woud," - vast landscapes of fluidly moving melody and contemplation inducing contentment. Main man Sigurd has molded an appropriate design of relaxation by combining atmospheric black metal in the vein of Alcest or even China's Zuriaake with the sounds and smells of the Germanic countryside including birds, wind, and the distant chiming of church bells from an ancient steeple. One is easily transported to a small unknown town in the European countryside.
Folkstorm have managed to create a strong, possibly redundant, though professional album. What impressed me most though was the incredible progression the band has taken in just a short time. Let's hop aboard the demo dirigible and look at how much the band has accomplished in the span of a fly's lifetime. In just one year, Folkstorm have "wowed" me, made me want to disassemble my stereo system and given me the feeling of discovering a new black metal gem of infinite bright/darkness. I'll be brief as possible about it. I can talk all day about this crap...
When I first came upon the minimalist approach of Folkstorm's first demo, "From The Pale Woodlands," I was awed by the easily memorable melodies, scope and expansiveness of each song's atmosphere. The simple heartfelt approach to black metal. The Burzum inspired atmosphere and the Darkthrone trance worked wonders. Songs like "Winter Came" and the soon to be classic - in my mind at least - "Frozen For Eternity" set my mind into a downward spiral of basic nonexistence; I zoned out for twelve minutes straight standing in place staring at my floor without ever realizing that I had forgotten to leave for work. Folkstorm hooked me. I was expecting great things from their portion of the "Spells Of Foresight Predict Our Paradise" split, like a fish expecting to find another worm as I was pulled from the comfortable wetness of my pond.
I found a giant fillet knife instead. Generally, I was disappointed with their songs on the split for not being characteristic of what I loved about their demo. Gone were the farmland melodies, the mysterious reverb soaked vocals, the epic black metal atmosphere and the freshly produced cow milk that came with my copy of the demo*. Instead, primitive raw black metal greeted me with disgusting sweaty palms. Though maybe not accurate, I got a distinct stench of a more melodic Von instead - short songs, simple structures, numbing drums. Yeah, it's a simpleton view but its the best I could think of... Shut Up! So, to be precise, it wasn't bad but it wasn't Folkstorm.
"De Stemmen.." then is a return to the form I found captivating on the first demo. They've returned to the form and pressed it into a concentrated juice of uplifting atmospheric black metal. I do have some small aspersory remarks though. This is a very safe album, a comment that I feel many would agree with. Folkstorm are not reaping new souls on this release, hell they might not even be swinging the scythe at all. This may or may not matter. Those less concerned about experimentation and progression won't care at all that Folkstorm aren't building new molds. In the case at hand, I'm not bothered by it either. I also would have enjoyed a slightly beefier guitar tone, as Sigurd's six string is rather clean in tone but I guess there's no livestock on his farm. Then again, the slightly destitute guitar tone may help relay the "pastoral" qualities of the album. Though the album lacks any aggressiveness, there are different moods displayed across the album preventing stagnation. The acoustic playing by Sigurd is awesome and well deserving of praise. Haatzaaier (ridiculous name... four "A"s??!) does not play drums on this album. Instead Sigurd relied on a drum machine. I would have loved to hear Haatzaaier on the album though. A more natural, varied approach to the percussion would have given the album maybe a touch more depth. The drum machine is programmed comfortably, though maybe lazily. It plods along with simple drum beats, allowing the melodies and fertile views to play the part of King. This is a nice, relaxing listen. Perfect for those rainy spring days sitting on the porch watching the rain soak through your backyard garden.
*The demo did not actually come with a glass of milk. Don't buy the demo expecting a big tall glass of milk. If you do, you didn't hear it from me.