Finsterforst - Mach Dich Frei 01Nestled in the Southwest corner of Germany, Schwarzwald (Black Forest) provides writing inspiration to its native musical counterpart, Finsterforst (Dark Forest). Playing exactly the style of metal one would expect from their name, Finsterforst have been plugging their epic, folksy wares to the masses with four full-lengths now, and Mach Dich Frei does not stray far from their established formula. There are problems, but it is very solid and enjoyable, drawing on Moonsorrow and Wintersun in crafting epic and heavy soundscapes.

I would usually go on to qualify this key strength by briefly describing the key flaw, as an overall description in the introduction. However, allow me to expand on a few flaws which can be summarised very neatly. Imagine, if you will indulge me, my mother. She will concede nothing in any argument, and I’ve always said she would make an excellent politician for her unparalleled ability to avoid difficult questions and divert to other topics. It really is uncanny. Now, going on a long car journey with her can be quite an ordeal. She will be navigating, I will be driving, and sometimes reaching the destination eludes her map-reading skills. We will drive aimlessly for several hours, before she begins pointing out arbitrary landmarks and flora. A gnarled forest. A colourful skyline. A time-ravaged church. She will insist she still knows where we are and where we’re going, but we won’t arrive without having explored everything within a 50 mile radius and approximately five hours late. By the end, I’m wishing the journey to be over due to its sheer length, even if the individual places are quite eye-catching.

This protracted metaphor applies well to Mach Dich Frei. Aside from being unnecessarily long, a few of the songs don’t feel like they’ve meaningfully progressed – like a drive with my dear mum, where travelling in the correct direction is seemingly overrated. “Schicksals End” and “Zeit für Hass” both end with more of the same rather than a big pay-off, which is an issue with music striving for grandiosity. More, they try to distract from this core lack of development by integrating as many different sounds as they can. The opening five and a half minutes of “Schicksals End” feature airy and thick, effectively layered guitar tones, chug, groove, snarled vox, clean shouts, synths with backing chants, horns, an accordion and even some oriental percussion at one point. While these are all entertaining, and it doesn’t feel disjointed, it’s surplus to what I came for – much like the exploration of all the forests and skylines and churches.

By the time you reach “Finsterforst,” the closer, you will be feeling that you’ve had your fill – but its 24-minute length says otherwise. I do not mean to say that the music itself is poor – in fact, taking each song individually, it’s accomplished stuff, with highlight sections in each. The hard rocking lead and savage vox at 2:20 in “Zeit für Hass” is awesome, as is the epic vocal harmony at the mid-point of “Mach Dich Frei,” and the crescendo into full-power blackened aggression at 16:30 in “Finsterforst.” Finsterforst demonstrates great technical ability and awareness of many styles, even if some feel shoe-horned. Glorious fist-pumping and classical pomp abound, and the different tracks all have something to offer. It’s just far too long when taken all together.

Finsterforst - Mach Dich Frei 02

With regard to production, though the interludes clock in higher, the full songs register a measly dynamic range of 4. On such music as this, which thrives on its ability to construct an epic soundscape, this is borderline unacceptable and doesn’t so much shoot itself in the foot, as nuke the foot and every forest and church within a 50 mile radius. While it may be acceptable on simpler melodies, the scope of the compositions here necessitates greater sonic depth and definition. Audio peaking is plainly audible at the start of “Finsterforst,” and it even affects my favourite, “Mach Dich Frei,” which does not have the space to fully envelope you in its multiple streams and layers.

This was a difficult one to rate. On one hand, the music is technically competent and very engaging – many of these songs are very enjoyable. On the other, these do not work so well when stitched together into a full record, and the production leaves a lot to be desired. There’s far too much material here for one release, and the pacing is off on a few of the tracks, which exacerbates the issue. I hope to reflect this duality in the score I have given – but numerical values are an inadequate way to judge art, hence the 669 above words. Nonetheless, this comes recommended to folk aficionados. Just consume it in small sips for full appreciation.


Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 4 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Napalm Records
Websites: FinsterforstOfficial | Facebook.com/FinsterforstOfficial
Release Dates: EU: 2015.01.23 | NA: 02.10.2015

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  • sir_c

    Apparently remnants of the Berlin wall were used during this album’s production stage. I can’t even get near my stereo anymore, it is surrounded by 5 meter concrete walls.

    Bad joke aside, I agree with the reviewer, a lot of the good stuff is lost. Can’t use Caps Lock all the time, metaphorically

  • Points for being the first folk metal band that use workshirts and levi’s 501’s like good blue collar people. (???)

  • Jean-Luc Ricard

    I hope you realise the sort of crass comments you’re inviting with all this talk of your mother.

    • El_Cuervo

      So far things have been clean. We have a respectful readership.

  • Wilhelm

    The production sounds terrible. Furthermore This style has also been done by better bands, and the video sucks – are they trying to break from the folk imagery? Did they smear poo all over themselves?

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    Yes yes yes but when is the new moonsorrow record coming out?

  • André Snyde Lopes

    I can’t help but feel that you are implicitly rating your mom with a 2.5/5.0…

    All jokes aside, this review was a great read.

    • El_Cuervo

      My mum. MUM. With a U!!!11!!!1!!! Fuck American English. But ye, she’s pretty average.

      Thanks dude, I had fun writing it

      • André Snyde Lopes

        I recall reading an article by the grand mastah himself in which he singled out American English as this blog’s official language. So you can keep your ‘colours’ and ‘theatres’ to yourself! haha

        • El_Cuervo

          Yes, he enforces stupid grammar rules and spellings with an iron fist. It’s almost like he doesn’t know where ENGLISH came from. But this is my mum. I think I’m entitled to address her how I please.

  • Feytalist

    Hah, finally you guys are reviewing a Finsterforst album :D

    I love their previous works. I still think Finsterforst has the best debut album I have ever heard. (Lead accordion, maaaan.) They’ve also really grown since then.

    Been looking forward to this album for a while. It’ll be a shame if it’s not quite up to par, but I’ll reserve judgement for myself… heh.

    • El_Cuervo

      If you’ve liked their previous stuff, you will like this too. As I acknowledge in the conclusion, if folk is your sort of thing this is good. It’s just overlong and other such issues.

    • Mark Hunt

      I have much love and nostalgia for the first Finsterforst record. But let’s face the truth here .. It’s not that good. And I couldn’t have put it nicer. ;D

      Now Rastlos, that’s my kind of Folk Metal. Hope the new one is similar.

      • Feytalist

        Lead accordion, maaaaaaaan :D It’s not perfect, sure, but it did so much right. And they really have improved on later albums.

        I probably like Zum Tode Hin most, actually.

  • Thatguy

    Yeah, yeah…….entertaining review and truly terrible video but I think I like this and will buy it

    I can deal with accordion – only the banjo is unforgivable

  • FutureBeyondSatan

    The mud make up is ridiculous. It makes Dee Snider look like the world’s best Cosmetologist.
    I do love the passion they put into their music, though. This just may be my first purchase of 2015 that isn’t Power Metal.

  • Mark Hunt

    This might actually be the first metal video that’s not either completely pointless and dumb or so bad, it makes me cringe.
    It’s not brilliant, but it kinda goes along with the lyrics (which is more than can be said about 95% of all metal videos) AND there’s a pretty gerl in it.

  • Doomdeathrosh

    Their style is like a “moonsorrow-tyr” supergroup! Also the girl in the vid looks suspiciously like Michael Jackson!