The hissing shriek of wind over snow; the crisp rhythm of a military drum; mournful piping. These three sounds, twining around each other, for the intro track, “Gen Seibenbyrgen,” for Harpyie‘s debut record, Blindflug. Translating to “blind flight,” the record is an attempt to do justice to the band’s namesake, the harpy eagle, through the medium of folk metal, or, as they describe themselves, “Medieval hard rock.” The harpy eagle is one of the creatures still roaming the earth that give us some idea what a terrorbird must have been like. The harpy eagle has the strongest grip in the animal kingdom; it talons apply more pressure than the jaws of a wolf. Do Harpyie bring the same kind of crushing force? Not even close.
The songs on Blindflug lack guts and energy, a real anchor or engine to the sound. A large part of this is the fault of the drumming, which is far too low in the mix, often buried behind the violins and bagpipes. The blast beats, when they appear, are syrupy-slow and muddy in tone, denying the songs the pep that they need. The cymbals also sound terrible, as though they were shaking a sheet of tinfoil. A large part of this is the fault of the production, but there isn’t a lot of spark to work with, either.
I’m sure there will be folk metal fans who enjoy Blindfulg. Like a great deal of material that forms the least-stellar examples of the genre, as long as fans can wave a drinking horn in the air as they do a jig in their utili-kilt, they will be satisfied. If that’s the bar that they were going for, then I suppose Harpyie have succeeded. But the songs are simple and predictable enough, and the performance half-hearted enough, that you’d have to be pretty damn drunk to really let go an enjoy yourself. Come on – the main melody of “Hex Und Halunken” is lifted straight from “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.” One of the weakest points is the vocals. Aello de Windboe’s voice is pleasant enough, I suppose, but has very little in terms or strength or range – he often sounds strained, as though he is pushing himself, when he’s not exactly performing vocal aerobatics. He doesn’t have the power or emotional strength to carry the focus of the entire album, which is what he is tasked with here. All the other instruments, all the melody lines, are built to serve and support his voice, and what he brings to the table is simply not enough.
There’s a glut of folk metal in the world, and many excellent, heart-rendingly poignant or blood-stirringly ferocious examples that fans can choose from. Why listen to anything but the best? [Or at least not the worst. — AMG]