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Heathen Foray - Weltenwandel Award winner

Heathen Forey
by Kira Schlechter at 06 April 2020, 4:26 AM

It’s always a challenge when you hear something in a language that’s not your own. The music becomes your guide even more profoundly than when you can understand the sentiment of the words. When it does so in the best way, as it does with the latest from melodic pagan metallers HEATHEN FORAY, it’s really rewarding After four previous albums – ranging from their 2009 debut “The Passage” to 2015’s “Into Battle” – the band, hailing from Graz, Austria, have released “Weltenwandel,” their first album sung entirely in German and their first recorded in their home studio. (The title roughly translates to “World Changer,” by the way.)

The tense “Schicksalsknecht” (“Fateful” in English) definitely sets a mood from the start, with Robert’s chanted vocals that segue into his signature growl. Jurgen and Alexander are masters of guitar melody and really get things established here, and Markus has a surprisingly light touch on drums, peppering the track with erratic rhythms and challenging your attention. The bridge is lovely, stirring and poignant and dense, and goes seamlessly back to that punchy emphatic chorus and then into a dramatically dark, insistent, foreboding outro led by Robert’s percussive singing.

“Essenz” (or “Essence”) definitely has a folky bent, thanks to the lead guitar and a rolling 6/8 tempo that uses the rhythm guitar to push everything along. The guitars slow in the bridge, the drums maintain the groove, and the vocals become layered and harmonic. The acoustic break is unexpected, but everything from the established song is kept – it drifts effortlessly into it, then goes just as effortlessly back. Altogether, it makes you want to bang your tankard on the table, or your sword on your shield.

“Tanz” (or “Dance”) has a cool jangly guitar melody and double-kick drumming to start, but the whole thing turns very sinister when the verses are chanted like a military march accompaniment. The rhythm gets diabolically difficult before the chorus, but it’s balanced by the completely listenable guitars, especially in the chorus and solo section. “Verfall” (or “Decay”) is lovely and sludgy and haunting. Even if you don’t understand the words, their sense of melody is powerful and compelling and firmly establishes the feel – the language actually suits it well. Markus’ drumming is heavy but not bludgeoning, and there’s a delicacy and roundness and sensitivity to it. It’s so lush, you can just drown in it – and it’s catchy in its way.

“Weg” (or “Path” or “Away”) marks the specifically designated Side Two of the album and it’s big and fast and supremely melodic – the growls are almost how the vocals have to be to not detract from those melodies. The band’s real potency is their music, especially the chorus here and those big power chords, and the driving ending is inescapable, sweeping you along with it. The longest track, “Monolith,” all nine minutes of it, is stately and beautiful and spare at the start, with just simple, evocative, sometimes dissonant chords and an eerie undercurrent of whispering voices and odd laughter. When Robert’s hushed, enunciated vocals start, it’s downright creepy. But it shakes off its avant-garde feel and gets louder and heavier and marginally quicker and more insistent as it goes on – the drumming again is superior, particularly the cymbal work. It’s a supremely interesting track that keeps you guessing as to where it will go and what it will do. It lives up to its title – solid and impregnable and immovable and musically stunning.

It’s followed by “Soldat” (or “Soldier”), the shortest track at just over three minutes. This is much more straightforward with a crisp groove and sharply defined guitar melody. It’s disciplined and tight, with no awkwardness anywhere. The chorus is clever, the lockstep groove is infectious, with the drums getting pushed along by the rhythm guitar. The lead guitar gets higher and higher, gradually modulating as the ending draws near, which is such a sophisticated touch. The glorious beginning of “Schlangengrube” (or “Snake Pit”) reminds me of “Rage for Order”-period QUEENSRYCHE in a weird way. Its wonderful lead guitar melody at the start comes in again so subtly before the chorus (which seriously rips, as does the remainder of the song – it’s so fast, it’s almost syncopated), and it’s there again later as a hint, used sparingly and judiciously.

This album has the same quality for me that the last MANEGARM album did in that I know I’ll be revisiting it. The guitar melodies remind me of WOLFHEART in certain ways – they themselves cite BLIND GUARDIAN as an influence and that’s certainly there, too. I just really enjoyed the overall sound of it – nothing gets lost in translation there.

Songwriting: 10
Musicianship: 10
Memorability: 9
Production: 9

4 Star Rating

1. Schicksalsknecht
2. Essenz
3. Tanz
4. Verfall
5. Weg
6. Monolith
7. Soldat
8. Schlangengrube 
Robert Schroll - Vocals
Jurgen Bruder - Guitar
Alexander Wildinger - Guitar
Max Wildinger - Bass
Markus “Puma” Kugeri - Drums
Record Label: Massacre Records


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