Skyforger - Kurbads

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Sure, the Encyclopaedia Metallum lists almost sixty bands as hailing from the Baltic nation of Latvia, but seeing that Skyforger, recently signed to Metal Blade Records, calls the seaport capital of Riga home can still come as a bit of a shock. So what kind of music does a Latvian band make that gets the attention of Metal Blade exec. Brian Slagel? That answer possibly owes less to their heritage and more to one of the more unfortunate trends of the past half-decade. Kurbads is Skyforger's first new studio release in seven years, and it comes at the height of an inexplicable folk metal craze that is sending bands with full-time hurdy-gurdy players on headlining tours of Europe and North America. Kurbads fits comfortably in the genre – one member's job description is even "various folk instruments and backing vocals" – but what sets them apart from the field is their longevity. They aren't hopping on a bandwagon; they've been doing this since 1995. Unlike most of the new bands in their movement, their music is at its strongest when it's embracing their folk influences rather than trying to be unnecessarily heavy. Songs like In the Yard of the Father's Son and the title track are stuffed to the gills with odd instrumentation and bizarre chanting, but they work better than the compositions that resemble straight death metal. This record might sound more exciting if we haven't spent the last five years being beaten over the head with Týr, Turisas and Ensiferum, but it belongs near the top of its subgenre, even if that means it belongs somewhere near the bottom of the metal genre as a whole.

Written by Brad Sanders
More: 2010, Albums, Folk Metal, Quick.Play Reviews,

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