It’s hardly controversial to describe the Italian metal scene as “bombastic,” or even “cheesy.” Hell, it’s the go-to for basically everyone in the Anglosphere, even when talking about brutally heavy acts like Hour of Penance. So imagine my surprise when I turn over a rock and find an Italian act that defies those expectations! While folk metal, Kanseíl play a style that’s more rough-and-tumble, and almost Slavic-sounding at times. It’s folky and melodic, but a cheese platter this ain’t. To boot, it appears to be at least half in Venetian rather than Italian, which just warms the cockles of my minority-language-enthusiast heart. But ultimately that’s all window dressing to the central question: Is this any good? Three albums into their career, have Kanseíl polished off the rough edges enough to write something worthy of attention?
Skipping the spoken-word intro, the album kicks in earnestly with “La Battaglia del Solstizio,” a crushingly heavy number (for melodeath, at least) with crunchy riffs aplenty and excellently snarly vocal work. I assume it exists to establish the band’s metal cred because the rest of the album sounds nothing like it. Every subsequent track is built entirely around a different lovely folk melody, with the guitars and various acoustic instruments — bagpipe and bouzouki, mostly — threading together for the bones of the tune, frequently accompanied by the sung vocal lines. Returns to more typical metal riffage are brief but engaging flirtations, with the juiciest riffs and roars being found on core tracks “Ander de le Mate” and “Pojat.” The melodic emphasis, along with the rough-and-tumble aesthetic of the vocal melodies, reminds strongly of more serious folk metal acts like Wilderun or Suidakra, though with the former’s progressive tendencies replaced with an alcoholic pub-crawl infusion, most especially on the jaunty, bagpipe-led “Vallòrch.” This is far from a criticism, however; there is a distinct earnestness to Fulìsche’s less-polished vocal aesthetic, which the record leans on to excellent effect, particularly on semi-ballad “Serravalle” or album closer “Densilòc.”
This more amateurish sound might not appeal to all, however, and for those with limited tolerance for clean vox in the first place, it’s likely to be a make-or-break consideration. Similarly, the decision to compose each track almost entirely around the melodic components is somewhat less metal than might be expected, and while I distinctly enjoyed it, that will assuredly not be a universal experience. As a final compositional note, the above-mentioned “Battaglia,” while competent, is easily the weakest track on the record — Kanseíl’s melodic sensibilities are their greatest strength, and letting them do the heavy lifting for the rest of the album was a smart move. The melodies are not the most memorable, but that’s hardly a rare issue with even the greatest of melodic metal.
With a typically modern production job, this would likely be a decent but forgettable album, but the production here is hardly typical. The mix is superbly well-balanced, with every instrument and voice coming through crystal clear, and nothing too soft or too loud (bagpipes included, thank the gods), barring one small segment of overloud guitar on “Orcolat.” Furthermore, the master, as can be seen below, is decently uncompressed so as to give everyone more than sufficient headroom. The overall effect gives the album an unusually live feel, further accenting the earnest “pub crawl” aesthetic as mentioned above. More dynamics always helps of course, but it’s hard to complain when the album sounds as good as this.
Overall, while it’s far from a masterpiece, Kanseíl have written an excellent folk metal offering in Fulìsche, one that’s well worth checking out even if folk metal isn’t usually your jam. I’m also beyond tickled by their choice to write an album even partially in a minority language like Venetian, so they deserve a massive amount of respect for that, too.
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: RockShots Records
Websites: kanseil.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/Kanseil
Release Dates: Digital: 05.25.2018 | EU: 2018.05.25 | NA: 06.08.2018