Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Thrawsunblat: Wanderer on the Continent of Saplings (2013)

They Like Trees

If I came right out the gate to tell you any specifics about Thrawsunblat, you might make the mistake (as I almost did) of dismissing them out of hand. So instead, I think it prudent to begin with my assessment of the quality of Wanderer on the Continent of Saplings.

This is some damn catchy music. Memorable leads, great vocals consisting of a hoarse growl and clean singing, plus some interesting riffs. Those elements conspire to make music of an epic quality that’s got a high-quality but not sterile production. It’s very, very good music. Yet, it’s from a Canadian folk metal band. I know! OK, OK, Canadian folk/melodic black metal sounds a little better, but still. The very term “folk metal” is enough to put most of you on notice that you probably won’t like it, and Canadians aren’t exactly known for the genre anyway. This just goes to show that general rules don’t apply in every case.

It helps that their most obvious influence is Enslaved. The Norwegians’ recent output is a great guide to their songwriting style, the way they dynamically structure their songs and play between harsh and clean sections. You can also look to Amorphis as another important influence, especially in terms of the folk melodies they use. You’re also likely to pick up on some Amon Amarth in there, especially in melo-death ballad “Once Fireveined.” More astute listeners might notice these guys also own a few records from bands who haven’t been on the cover of any big monthly magazines; a riffing trick they regularly employ comes courtesy of Dornenreich.

Traditional instrumentation doesn’t shove itself in your face here. Fiddle is present, yes, and the occasional flute, but this is more a metal record than most folk metal bands can lay claim to.

Wanderer does have its flaws. “Goose River (Mourner’s March)” is one step too far toward Korpiklaani for a band that’s otherwise cheese-free, and I don’t understand why they included a pipe organ instrumental. The nearly-ragtime piano is an odd way indeed to begin the album. Even afterward they don’t put forth a really strong track until you’re three in, and ultimately the record is a little too long.

Next time around, perhaps they can write another album just like this one, and then cut out the weakest third. Still, you won’t be unhappy if you put down a few dollars on Bandcamp for this one.

The Verdict: 3.5 out of 5 stars

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