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Grendel's Sÿster – Myrtle Wreath/Myrtenkranz

Grendel's Sÿster
Myrtle Wreath/Myrtenkranz
by Matt Bozenda at 18 October 2020, 9:21 PM

There’s a lot to be said for conventional wisdom. For example, if you stand beneath a waterfall, you are certain to become soaked. When it comes to Folk Metal, the conventional wisdom is to employ instruments and/or vocal styles which are generally native to the band’s homeland as a complement to the one or more subgenres they’ve otherwise chosen to play. Does that work? Sure it does; that is to say, it can work. Bands like New Zealand’s ALIEN WEAPONRY or Finland’s FALCHION are reasonable examples of the subgenre done well, and the Nordic HEILUNG positively pushes the boundaries. They’re far from Vince Noir's “glam folk” experiment on The Mighty Boosh.

When it comes to testing the limits of Folk Metal, GRENDEL'S SŸSTER has found the science in "Myrtle Wreath/Myrtenkranz", which is not a full-length album but more of a two-part EP. What is odd about this particular brand of Folk Metal is the stark absence of the usual folk elements. Despite hailing from Germany, you will hear no glockenspiel, no lute, no waldzither, or any such ancientness. Instead, this trio works the typical metal spread in a way that creates an incredible atmosphere for their poetic lyrics. Those lyrics, as likely chiseled into stone as they were written with pen and paper, are presented in two versions, one in English and one in German, hence the dual-length nature of the release.

After an intense spoken word intro, the music begins with "Vishnu’s Third Stride", a showcase of what is to come in the vein of the epic poem. "Entoptic Petroglyphs" has a ranging tempo but never loses the rhythm it begins with, while "Winnowing The Chaff" is almost Tolkien in it’s quality presentation, and "Indra’s Jewelled Net" achieves both at once.

"Little Wildling Bird" and "Count And Nun" are as close to traditional Folk Metal as the band will approach. German music experts may well find them to be faithful adaptations of the old songs they came from, whether in English or the original Deutsch. The outro, "Cairns", also pays dues to the subgenre while simultaneously confounding it as it has no instruments at all, only very heavy chanting, and a final edda matching the epic delivery that has preceded it.

The first eight tracks are the English versions, while the back eight tracks are the German versions, and as is typical in these cases, the more satisfying version is in der muttersprache. Both halves stand well enough on their own, however, and yet taking them in tandem is the path to this releases’ true magic. The old world feeling while being completely absent of old world elements is remarkable. Some bands are able to capture the classic rock feel, and GRENDEL'S SŸSTER does it with fluid expertise, but they do something else here as well; they make it their own.

"Myrtle Wreath/Myrtenkranz" sounds like it was found in the back of Richard Wagner’s writing desk after an auction. It sounds like it was written a century ago, or perhaps you can make that centuries ago, brought back to life in a modern reinterpretation. But it isn’t; with a couple of exceptions, the whole thing was written within the last half-decade. It is not an imitation of anything. The mononymic members of GRENDEL'S SŸSTER claim influence from the likes of BLIND GUARDIAN, WARLORD, and LORDIAN GUARD, but you have to really pay attention to catch them here, because you’ll find far more Beowulf and Gilgamesh and Iliad. A full-length album must surely be around the corner for a band with nothing to do but continue upward, and if given proper presentation and production, GRENDEL'S SŸSTER has the potential to unleash the next kraken.

Musicianship: 8
Songwriting: 8
Memorability: 8
Production: 8

4 Star Rating

1. Agnicayana (Intro)
2. Vishnu’s Third Stride
3. Little Wildling Bird
4. Entoptic Petroglyphs
5. Winnowing The Chaff
6. Count And Nun
7. Indra’s Jewelled Net
8. Cairns
9. Agnicayana (Intro)
10. Vishnus Dritter Schritt
11. Wildvogelein
12. Entoptische Petroglyphen
13. Worfelschwung
14. Graf Und Nonne
15. Indras Juwelennetz
16. Steinmannlein
Caro – Vocals
Tobi – Guitar
Till – Drums
Record Label: Cruz Del Sur Music


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