Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Finsterforst: Rastlos (2012)

Folk Metal Album of the Year

Somehow, I managed to give the same album to two different reviewers. The other review will be posted later today. This one is by Patrick, proprietor of Beards, Etc.

Finsterforst are a German folk metal band who formed in 2004. Their third full-length album, Rastlos, comes out in late November. I was excited when Kelly sent me the advance promo, because I've been looking forward to hearing this for months.

As I've begun gearing up for my end-of-year discussions about the best metal records of 2012, I've noticed one tragically big hole. All year, I've been waiting for one truly outstanding folk metal album to appear, and all year I've been consistently disappointed at the absence of such a release. I'm happy to announce that my wait is at an end.

Rastlos is colossal. From the grandeur of the battle scenes and epic landscapes it evokes to the huge run-times of the songs themselves, everything about this 78-minute slab of wild German folk metal is massive. Keyboards and accordion pull in the requisite folk instrumentation. The beautiful blending of those features with folk melodies, choral arrangements, and driving metal collectively crafts a series of gorgeous and sweeping tracks that I found incredibly compelling. Each song builds and grows and functions as its own large and complete entity, with the exception of the two brief instrumental tracks, because each full song runs over 10 minutes and has all the space it needs to fully mature and unfold. Unsurprisingly, soft-heavy dynamics frequently come into play, as do both clean and harsh vocals.

I should note briefly that my description and constant references to the epic scope and feel of this record may leave some readers thinking that this record sounds more like Viking metal than folk metal. I don't want to split hairs on this point, and I recognize that a degree of bleed-over is present in this case (as is often true in the Viking/black/pagan/folk sphere of metal). However, it's my opinion that this record is predominantly folk metal, so that's what I'm calling it.

There were two things that really struck me about this album. The first was how immediately it swept me up and kept me engaged in its grand workings. The other thing, if you can even call it a thing, was that no one aspect of the music ever really seemed to stand out as distinctly better or worse than the rest. Unlike most records, I felt no compulsion to insert my scalpel and dissect the specific parts to isolate what did and didn't work. Instead, the overall effect was so well-balanced and harmoniously symbiotic that it all felt like a single, organic whole rather than a sum of separate parts.

The only flaw I can find, and the sole reason I'm not giving this record a perfect score (though I'm tempted to give it one anyway), is that the final track was just too lengthy. I deeply appreciate the natural pacing of the record's extended compositions, but rarely if ever does a song really need to be 23 minutes long. With that being said, this was a fantastic album, and it's easily the best folk metal release I've encountered this year.

The Verdict: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Preorder/Buy Rastlos

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