Those who know my style of reviewing have probably gotten used to my elaborate and often long analyses of what is on a record, and what the band in all likeliness meant with that. If you are not a lover of such style and usually quit my epistles after a few paragraphs: Good news for you this time, keep on reading, because this one is unusually short. For sure I have a reason for refraining from my longer contemplations for once: What Tverd
has laid down on their debut full length is absolutely crystal clear in all respects, and no more words than necessary should be wasted on it. It is just exemplary for all that (Pagan
) Folk Metal
As however Tverd
is not (yet) commonplace among the fans of Folk Metal
, I feel I have to go a little deeper into their history and stances. Tverd
is the brain- and probably also the dreamchild, of Vetrodar, once the frontman of Pagan Reign
, a band that, although very introvert in most of its aspects, managed to attract a considerable fan following, even far outside their native Russia. Pagan Reign
sure had very clear Metal
musical intentions, and used Folk elements mainly to enhance their Slavonic Pagan
and very traditional roots.
Where PR could, certainly in the earlier period of their existence, still be considered as a metal band, bringing in Folk elements into their music, Tverd
starts from the opposite side of the musical spectrum, being a rather fundamentalist ethnically flavored Folk band, focusing on older Slavonic history and Paganism, but in many of their compositions bring in rather robust doses of Rock and Metal
elements. Vetrodar seems to have been contemplating the direction to go for quite some time, as Pagan Reign
co-existed for a while, featuring a remarkable number of the same musicians in the line up, and even making a split recording, before finally the decision was made that Tverd
should become the active vehicle and PR would go into hibernation.
Not a few of the critics of, especially Slavonic, Folk Metal
by now will have developed the all to common idea of “But…..I smell neo-nazism here”. Without denying that many in the Slavonic Folk Metal
scene indeed have expressed most unhealthy ideas, in this case forget about that. Tverd
sings about the historic past of their people and their ancient beliefs and, sure also about the heroic deeds of some of their ancestors in trying to stem the devastating tide of christianity. Doing such, it is unavoidable to express pride in your own people and culture. If you can’t bear that, well, that is your problem than. Some so called leftists are equally infested with intolerance as those who they pretend to fight!
Not only in their music the band shows an ancient traditionalism, but also in their visual appearance they take you back to bygone times through traditional Russian rural dress and medieval armor items. Moreover, even with the compositions staging strong electric Rock and Metal
elements along with prominent and diverse usage of Folk instruments, near all the vocals are sung in traditional Russian style, (Only the choruses show harsh Metal
vocals), adding even more weight to my previous statement that this is a band based in ethnic traditions but not averse to 21st century elements.
Now, not a few before have tried to do the same, too often however efforts tended to slide too much into either the traditional of the modern side. Tverd
on this album skillfully avoids such flaws and manages to lay down an organic and comprehensive total, which given its very nature, for the moment, must equally fail to take in the true metalheads as well as the true folkists. I guess they have realized this all too clearly and are happy to content themselves with a smaller fan base. More
evidence for this is to be found in the fact that Tverd
has since this, late 2008, album have made no new releases whatsoever and seem to prefer playing locally rather than seeking wider international recognition.
Those who expect that with such sophisticated music and philosophical background, the visual art accompanying is equally interesting, will probably be quite disappointed. Tverd
’s Logo, although charming in its ancient naivety, holds nothing to attract much attention: An ancient wood-walled Pagan
castle, above the name of the band in yellow golden Cyrillic characters, set against a star studded night sky background. Attractive in its simplicity, but hopelessly forlorn in the Metal
scene where competitiveness in ever more elaborate and stunning logo designs has become rampant.
The album’s sleeve design, will probably even offend the more fundamentalist Metal
diehards as it resembles many an early 1970’s Psychedelic- or Krautrock album front. But for those with a more open mind and a deeper interest in Paganism, it certainly delivers plentiful clues about the band’s spiritual philosophy. For those not so adapt at the backgrounds of Paganism other than the in Metal
well-known Northwestern European Odinism/Wotanism: It is the Sun deity overlooking his bride, the nature of the living earth. Even nowadays a not uncommon theme in Siberian Shamanism, but once common in many places all over the planet. Yes, in its depiction it is naïve, in its spiritual meaning however it is by no means.
The album was released on CD-Maximum
, an unpretentious name, probably unknown to most outside of Russia, but nevertheless a major label in the country, responsible for many a metal issues as well as more than a few in other styles. What counts in this is that they have delivered an almost flawless production with this album. Usually I have a few critical comments concerning production of Folk Metal
releases, but here even the mixing was done in a great way, avoiding the all too common conflict between the folk and electric instruments. Kudos to you boys and girls over there at CDM!
In most of my reviews I give short (and sometimes longer) descriptions of the individual songs, but I feel that in this case such would be superfluous, as the consistency in style of the individual tracks on this album is so great. Every time I listen again to the album I imagine that I like the first two songs best, but I realize that is mainly because they do the overwhelming, after which you get used to the style, without however the subsequent tracks losing any in the intensity and technical quality. But, well, track number 2, “The Spring” is probably the most mesmerizing of all and I guess many can agree with me in this.
Concluding I can say nothing else than that for me this is Folk Metal
as it should be: Great combinations of the traditional and the modern, enough magic and bewildering elements to suck you in wholly, and themes that touch quite a little more than the stuff you find in the popular charts, without descending into blaring misanthropy or unsavory ideology. Very consistent indeed. If it were not that Tverd
is in fact a continuation of Pagan Reign
, - with lots of Folkearth
fame gathered in the meanwhile -, I might have given it an extra point for encouragement, but for sure 18 out of 20 it more than deserves. Let’s only hope the band can get a little more prolific in the near future!