HeathenReview by Patrick, proprietor of Beards, Etc.
Next month, Germany-based Falkenbach release their 6th full-length album, Åsa. The Vratyas Vakyas solo project has become one of the best established names within the world of Viking metal. Some would argue that classification, as I've also heard them called pagan metal or folk metal or heathen metal, but that's not really important.
After a six year long absence, Falkenbach returned two years ago with a somewhat sub-par effort. This time around the pressure was on to prove that Vratyas still had it, and he came through with flying colors. A major complaint about the band, one which this blog's proprietor has lodged himself, is that they tend to be rather slow. The atmosphere is typically a strong suit of the band, but the tendency to get caught up in pure atmosphere can lead to some dreary listening. This time around, the slow sections are interspersed with faster, more aggressive passages. The hard/soft dynamic is extremely effective when it's handled right, and it's handled right on this album. Chants and mellow acoustics sweep you away to misty fjords and snowy peaks, then harsh vocals and sharp instrumentation keep the effort rooted in metal.
In terms of that instrumentation, everything is handled well. The drumming and melodeath-styled riffs are smoothly executed, and the harsh vocals sound good. I didn't notice much in the way of bass, but that's pretty common in this area of metal. All these elements blend smoothly with its acoustic folk side to make for a very enjoyable listening experience.
If you're already a fan of Falkenbach specifically or Viking/pagan metal in general, I see no reason why you wouldn't like this. If you're just looking for a starting place to explore this sub-genre further, you could do a lot worse than this.
The Verdict: 4 out of 5 stars.