Napalm Records has long been one of my favorite labels, putting out a lot of bands that I really dig (especially the Vintersorg/Otyg/Fission stuff), and they’ve recently taken a hard dive into folk metal and other genres more of this type. So I wasn’t surprised, but I was particularly excited, when I read that Sweden’s Fejd (pronounced like the English word “fade”) had been signed to Napalm as I had earlier discovered their demos which had been put up for free at the Free Metal Albums blog1. I had discovered the demo “I En Tid Som Var…” and had gotten really excited the band, and was frankly surprised that they hadn’t been picked up by anyone. So as you can suspect from this introduction, I was eagerly anticipating Storm–the band’s newest release.
First, a word of warning: Fejd, while probably put under folk metal by the majority of people, are far more folk than metal. They have no extreme vocals whatsoever, and while the music is put together using the traditional rock instruments (and all the dudes are long-haired metal guys som of whom have been involved in other well-respect Swedish bands), they also are basically writing old-fashioned folk music in a modern form–much like Otyg was back in the earliest days, and frankly I’d say it’s even more folk and less than metal than much of Oytg‘s records. In my eyes this does not lessen the quality of the album at all, it is however a fair warning to people who think “Oh, folk metal!” and then think of Finntroll.
These guys are exceptionally good at what they do, and Storm is a masterful record. From the opening bagpipes of “OfferrÃ¶k” (Sacrificial Smoke), to “Egils Polska” (which is literally just a polska form Swedish folk song that one could do folk dancing to), all the way to the final violins and fade out of “MorgonstjÃ¤rnan” (The Morning Star), the band paints images of a time that was in Sweden, and they weave beautiful melodies together, giving the whole record a misty, ethereal feel at times–like one is gazing into the past. Of course, these moments are offset by moments of energetic, interesting folk melodies and rhythm that leave one bobbing his or her head and can be quite addictive.
The vocals aren’t exactly what one would naturally expect from a band like this, but they work pretty well. They are clear, but they have a slightly rough edge, which gives the impression that these guys are still metal guys even though they’re making pretty distinctly not-metal music at this point. They also blend really well with the variety of folk instruments that are used, including what appears to be some kind of lute from the pictures, as well as a flute that appears to be native to Sweden (to which I don’t know the name). They use bagpipes and violins as well, all of which artfully blend and flow together artfully with the rock drums and bass–thereby just creating folk music, with just a little kick.
The one thing that I think this record lacks is, well, the metal. I was longing for heavier pieces throughout the album, even though I’m aware that this isn’t the intention. The general feeling of the record is somewhere between folk and metal; and I want the metal as well as the folk bits. This is not to say, however, that these guys aren’t crafting amazing music or that the songs don’t have a heft and punch to them; on the contrary, songs like “OfferrÃ¶k” and “Skuld” pick up the pace and knock out what is undeniably rooted in metal. And while these moments are highlights for me, they are just not quite often enough on the album. This probably has to do with the fact that traditional guitars are missing from the mix entirely, which takes away the crunch of distortion that while it is replaced by very metal riffing on other instruments, is incredibly hard to replace with respect to heaviness. Let me state for the record, however, that this gripe has not stopped me from listening to this record when I’m in the mood for something of its ilk. In fact, of the records that I’ve bought in 2009 it is definitely the most frequently listened to. I just always wish it was a bit heavier.
My other big worry about this album is that it’s going to be lost in the flood of folk metal that is starting to really pour out into the market now. That stinks, because this album is masterful, particularly compared with the deluge of mediocrity that has started hitting the market (particularly in reference to mediocre folk/viking metal bands). While I’m a big fan of the style, it has become more trendy than ever and now there are 50 new folk metal records flooding the market every month from bands that, frankly, aren’t very good. It is hard to pick out the real winners from this mess of records–but I think that Fejd has been one of the best, and continues to be one of the best in the entire genre. Storm is an album that is wonderfully crafted and incredibly enjoyable. I wish these guys the best of luck (and that they’d play in UmeÃ¥ so I could see them).
- Incidentally, it is important to note that all of the albums on this blog are made available by the bands for free, and that they are not in any way, shape or form illegally downloaded.Â Also, if one goes there, Fejd has three demos, I strongly suggest you check out “I en tid som var” (In A Time That Was) which is my personal favorite ↩