Sunday, July 01, 2012

Heidevolk Batavi

Heidevolk Batavi

By: Chris Davison

So, sure, we're used to hearing Finnish and Swedish bands knocking out the whole “folk metal” stuff. I've seen pretty much all of them live at one time or another, and it's generally easy to spot those that have an actual interest in issues of heritage and pagan pride, rather than those who have converted swiftly on from the last passing fad or trend in Heavy Metal in search of a quick buck (or, maybe something else that rhymes with buck that they can quickly acquire). There are now literally hordes of folk metal bands, and I've even seen some home-grown English bands that have tried it with unconvincing backing tracks streamed from a MacBook, while the singer pounces about in a knitted hat. You all know the drill, right? You add a “Celtic” flourish to a standard metal song, and dress up in armour. It may also help to hold up a flagon of “ale” in between songs. So, where do Heidevolk fare in the scheme of things? Are these the kind of guys to be riding in a dragon ship, or are you more likely to catch them playing Dungeons and Dragons?

For those of you not in the know, Heidevolk are already a little different from the crowd, in that they hail from Holland and have decided to sing in Dutch. Apparently, from a linguistic perspective, Dutch is the closest language to English, though I am completely unable to understand anything they are singing about. There are plenty of clean singing sections, which sound rather heroic, (though to be fair, they could be singing about mowing the lawn, and I'd be none the wiser), and plenty of chanting and occasional harsh growling. There is also a lack of traditional folk instruments, and all of the music presented here is relatively memorable standard extreme metal, complete with quickly strummed guitars, quick and efficient drumming and pummelling bass attacks.

I have a couple of earlier Heidevolk albums, and it's fair to say, I think, that Batavi has increased the heavy metal quotient, while turning down the dial on folk-metal conventions. For one, this album is a much darker proposition than the fairly lightweight offerings on “Walhalla Wacht.” “In Het Woud Gezworen,” for example, has an acerbic, cutting tone that brings to mind the finer moments of Britain's sadly defunct Sabbat at their prime, while the clean singing tones do indeed bring an epic feel to the music.
As to whether Heidevolk are actually now a folk metal band? That's a tricky one. They are clearly influenced by their heathen roots and the tales of their ancestors, but in musical terms, I don't hear any of those clich├ęd melodies any more, and that's all for the better. Perhaps then, it's just fairer to say that this is just a damn fine album from Dutch gentlemen with an interest in their past. There are no stone cold classics to be found here, but it's going to while away a pleasant hour or so.


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