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On disc: Heathen Foray

The Passage - Claudia Ehrhardt - 8 stars
Armored Bards - Mike Thompson - 6 stars

Armored Bards

Armored Bards
(Black Bards - 2010)

Heathen Foray is a folk metal band from Austria and Armored Bards is their second album. The band plays a melodic death metal tinged style of folk metal similar to KromleK, which basically means that they take all the best bits from Amon Amarth, Korpiklaani and Ensiferum and mix it all up together.
This is good quality folk metal that genre fans will thoroughly enjoy. They guys of Heathen Foray know what they want to play and they do it well and the album does exude that great feeling of wanting to dance around the long hall supping ale and mead from a drinking horn!
The musicianship is very good in all areas with chugging riffs and twiddly guitar solos on show throughout. Vocalist Robert Schroll sounds very much like Johan Hegg, which is never a bad thing. The drumming and bass are extremely tight and build a solid foundation for the songs.
It really is unfortunate that the song writing is really nothing special. The riffs are exactly what you would expect to hear, the bouncy feeling of the songs is typical of the folk metal sub genre, the guitar tone is precisely what you expect and the lyrics are average at best. I felt that the songs also got weaker towards the end of the album. I don't mind when a band releases an album that you could call generic, however, there has to be something about it that captures your interest and Armored Bards does not have that.
To say that this is a bad album would be a great injustice. Its not. Its better than a lot of the releases by Johnny-come-lately folk metal wannabes these days. However, as enjoyable as it is its just got 'heard it all before' stamped all over it and this led to me getting bored by the time the album finished. There's really nothing that makes Heathen Foray stand out from the crowd in the increasingly crowded folk metal world. This is folk metal by numbers and an album that only die-hard fans of the genre will enjoy for any lasting amount of time.

6 stars

Mike Thompson


The Passage

The Passage
(Black Bards - 2009)

Heathen Foray is a new band from Austria which started back in 2005, but had to survive some line-up changes. In 2007 they released their demo Forest, now their debut album is in the stores - The Passage. They offer pagan / Viking metal, but not with the typical folklorish instruments, they prefer to use their guitars. Guitarists Jürgen Brüder and Bernd Zahn switch between heavy metal riffs and neo-classical passages. The Styrian fivesome kicks off with Fading Tree, a fast track which shows their musical playground quite good. A bit slower they present themselves at Northstar, but the song is catchy and so easy to get in. Singer Robert Schroll has a deep voice and is based in growls, even if I can imagine a clean voice accompanying him... Some typical violin melody is played by the guitar and so the Austrians sound much heavier - and more aggressive. Especially at the melodic Winterking I would like to hear some clean vocals, but well... After a slow intro they storm off into Chants, but again they change speed. A pagan metal anthem is Dragon's Eyes which is one of the oldest track of Heathen Foray. The song has a catchy refrain and a cool guitar lead part! At Wolkenbruch Robert sings in German, a nice change. For Theater Of Battle they speed up! A fast, guitar-driven song which is carried by the guitar melody. The growls make the song more aggressive. One of my favorites at The Passage and also a good one to check out the Austrians!
Everybody who likes pagan or Viking metal with heavy guitars and fast passages, should check out Heathen Foray! You'll find some folk-ish melody lines, but the quintet is using guitars and create so atmospheric, but heavy parts with a dash aggression. Okay, I would like to have the vocals more varying, but that's mainly a matter of taste... And who knows, perhaps they will surprise us next time. Anyway, a strong debut!

8 stars

Claudia Ehrhardt


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