Review: Varus – A New Dawn

Varus – A New Dawn
Self-release

After a lineup change replaced half of the band, the German symphonic folk metal group Varus return to the scene with their second full-length album, A New Dawn.

Bringing a medley of different instruments and styles to the table, A New Dawn is surrounded by familiarity yet still brings refreshing themes into each song. Throughout the album, each song brings its own set of elements to the table which work as standalone songs – almost showcasing the variety folk metal offers to those unfamiliar to the genre.

Songs like The Minstrels Chant brings about the common chanting/harmonic choruses one would come to expect from the genre. Yet a well-placed flute and guitar solo duel mixed into the middle adds some unexpected flair. The duel is then followed by heavy chugging of both bass and drums to keep the listener headbanging along.

Among the enchanting keyboards and symphonic sounds from Ein Lebewohl, the end of the song brings about a Baroque-style piano performance which both purposefully and eloquently add a subtle touch of a classical performance among the roaring music.

Die Letzte Schenke promotes itself with the stereotypical triumphant beer-drinking motif one would come to expect. Halfway through the death metal growls however, and brutality of the song pulls the listener down a darker path, only to be presented with a organ and guitar solo which surprisingly comes across as natural in the realm of the death metal.

That intensity of the genre continues to shine with the last two tracks: initially easing the listener in with operatic vocals, then pummeling the listener down with the ferocity of both riffage and thumping double kicks. As such, it feels that the album ends with a much more aggressive tone than how it started – and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that.

Despite the wide ranging offerings from each song, the title track is the only one that suffers from stereotypes of the genre. It’s slow paced and generic anthem-like nature feels like it could have been better suited in the middle of the album rather than kicking the album off.

With a wide assortment of different instruments, styles, and offerings for listeners unfamiliar with the genre, Varus’ A New Dawn is an impressive second album with many promising moments to leave the listener craving to hear what the band will have to offer next.

Varus on Bandcamp

Review: Fellwarden – Wreathed in Mourncloud

Project Renegade – Order of the Minus
Eisenwald Tonschmiede

Almost in an intrinsic way, Fellwarden drops some of the heaviest atmospheric black/folk metal one could ask for in 2020. With their second album, Wreathed in Mourncloud, Fellwarden has stepped up to the plate and released an incredibly powerful and moving album.

There’s a simplistic beauty within Fellwarden’s scope: it all feels natural. Wreathed in Mourncloud is not overwhelmingly produced, however it does not skimp out. The opening track, Pathmaker, establishes the tone for the rest of the album. The vocals sit in the background with the wall of sound wrapping around your ears. The choruses are melodic and both rise and fall with grace. If anything, there’s a familiarity with how the songs are structured; it’s as if I’ve heard catches and hooks before and they’re surrounded with something I’ve previously experienced. Some moments are almost stereotypical where one can predict how the song is going to go, yet it does so with such grace that it doesn’t really matter.

The songs on the album feels to be a mix between Panopticon and Borknagar but such comparisons really do not give them justice.

Moments such as the moody bass tones near the end of Scafell’s Blight stand out as interesting breathing moments to an intense soundscape. The chorus of the title track is another stand out moment where waves of feelings are brought to an already pulse-pounding track.

The natural sounds from the recordings certainly shine through the entire album and feels like they come to a worthy climax in the final track, Upon Stone. It was as if the whole album built for it. Upon Stone’s final few minutes feels like an old friend saying goodbye for the last time.

Some of the more interesting decisions on the album were how some of the vocal harmonies were recorded. As mentioned, the vocals at times felt tucked away in behind the music. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with it – however there’s a small handful of moments I felt the drums could have taken a step back to let the harmonies shine. Yet, for black metal, the bass guitar chimes in when necessary and falls back when appropriate. It’s still a wonderful and smart mix.

Passionate, intense, brutal, and with a ton of heart, Fellwarden’s Wreathed in Mourncloud is an outstanding album that delivers on every level.

Fellwarden on Bandcamp