E-An-Na – Fascinathanatango
E-An-Na has long been a diamond in the rough, from their explosive high-caliber debut album “Jiana” through the nuance of 2019’s “Nesfârşite.” Though they have whet the appetite of their fans with sporadic single releases, this May the band dropped their most unique and ambitious release yet: the new instrumental EP “Fascinathanatango.” The proposition is strange on its face, and certainly enough to turn heads: “Fascinathanatango” presents an avant-garde take on modern tango music, delivered by a band best known for their metaphysical ponderings through folk metal. But if anything has defined E-An-Na’s style over the last five years, it is boundless adventure and ambition, with this EP being the next step in their hunger for something new. Openly drawing from the influence of tango artist Astor Piazzolla, “Fascinathanatango” explores melodies from folk music, experimental and avant-garde structures, and even mathcore, all in the lens of an unmistakable tango.
One would not be exaggerating to say that “Fascinathanatango” carries with it incredible emotion delivered by unparalleled variety, sweeping from sensations of melancholy through unbridled elation. “Politango” features a dense air of ominous uncertainty, clouded by erratic instrumentals competing against one another as the tempo gradually increases in a mounting panic. The piano on “Microtango” feels as though it were drawn from another decade entirely, the delicate flavor of piano and folk mingling for one of the album’s most straightforward representations of the music style for which it was titled. The production is balanced so each instrument stands out amongst the mix, complimenting each other rather than clashing, even amongst the many stringed instruments.
The only hints of a voice to be found on the album are in the sinister and foreboding clutches of “Nimic,” featuring spoken word isolated above sporadic percussion and foreboding strings. There is the sense of slipping into madness as the speaker grows increasingly frantic before cutting off entirely, transitioning straight into the far more mellow “Vârstango.” This all leads into the album’s most impressive track by far, the mammoth “Necrotango,” which clocks in at more than ten minutes long. Though each song is diverse compared to one another, it is “Necrotango” that contains the most enticing journey of all: a coalescence of strings that feels as though they are painting a distant nightmare. Somber interludes with little more than a whisper of strings swell with cinematic intent, opening further with perilous orchestrals drawing the listener further into its murky waters. E-An-Na has leaned into the genre’s necessity for upbeat rhythm with the dancing melodies of “Muntango,” but added depth with pensive interludes and sinister arrangements for rich emotional depth. This record is dark throughout, twisting the sweeter threads of its inspiration to craft something else entirely.
“Fascinathanatango” is an incredible feat of musicianship and creativity, one which comes from a most unexpected place. And it is sincerely a creation unlike any other, rightfully earning the label ‘unique’ twelve times over. There are few displays of such obvious talent and creativity as this latest offering from the E-An-Na camp, and it continues to solidify their rich discography.
Overall Verdict: 9 (Excellent)
- Songwriting: 9
- Musicianship: 8.5
- Originality: 9.5
- Production: 9
Dordeduh – Har
Another strong release from the impressive Romanian metal camp is the sophomore album from blackened atmospheric folk group Dordeduh. “Har” may be the outfit’s second release, but it brings with it the confidence and self-assuredness of a band who has been conquering such massive soundscapes for far longer. Born from the ashes of Romanian band Negură Bunget, Dordeduh presents a beautiful combination of bright compositions and unforgiving aggression. “Har” is the balance between natural beauty and chaos, warming the arctic frost of black metal with the enveloping embrace of darkened folk. Touches of traditional instrumentation like the hammered dulcimer add to the authenticity of their proposal, and give an even greater depth to already compelling compositions.
Tracks such as “Timpul întâilor” carry with it all the hallmarks of black metal, from resounding dissonance across the guitars to the thundering percussive violence. But it also holds the mystery of atmospherics, including nigh-disembodied vocals before the throaty growls make their entrance. It is worth listening to this album with a sincere enjoyment for the journey, particularly on “Vraci de nord,” which rewards listeners with a stunningly bright swell in the middle of a twelve-minute long piece. It is also one of the album’s most diverse and cinematic, containing everything from the soft touches of wind instruments to front-man Hupogrammos roaring like a storm made manifest. Each moment of mystery builds to tell a complex story across various passages, one which concludes with sincerity before moving on to the next song, allowing “Har” to conclude with a satisfying sense of completeness.
“Descânt” and “Desferecat” hold neck-and-neck for the album’s frontrunner, serving as two parts of a whole on either side of the album’s center. The former is eclectic, using a more traditional presentation as a hook before opening into hearty bass lines, giving the entire track a very deep and expansive sound. Harsh vocals elevate the sensation of Dordeduh shaking the earth with every note, but with a sincere symbiosis of atmospheric grace rather than black metal’s usual hellfire. “Desferecat” is the slightly more energetic counterpart, relying on an all but psychedelic vocal intonation over varied percussion for a potent display of musicality. Repetitive passages give a sense of consistency and proof of instrumental prowess, both in “Desferecat” and “De neam vergur.” “Har” is built on solid foundations, elevated by a commitment to authentic dark folk and the spirit of black metal, and an eye for compositions which inspire awe in even their most tranquil moments.
- Timpul întâilor
- În vieliștea uitării
- Calea magilor
- Vraci de nord
- De neam vergur
- Flavius Misarăș / Bass
- Sol Faur / Guitars, Keyboards, Hammered dulcimer, Xylophone
- Hupogrammos / Vocals, Guitars, Keyboards, Hammered dulcimer, Mandola, Toacă, Tulnic
- Putrid / Drums
Overall Verdict: 8.5 (Great)
- Songwriting: 9
- Musicianship: 8
- Originality: 8
- Production: 9
Felled – The Intimate Earth
Blackened folk metal has been making something of a comeback – though some may argue it never left – but there is little question that Felled must be included in the number for this genre’s revival. Though having initially formed under the name Felled in 2014, it took 7 years of waiting for their debut album “The Intimate Earth.” And it seems as though the wait was well-worth the sheer polish and attention to detail that elevates this blackened folk to the next level, capturing a fervor for creation that has already laid the outfit’s artistic roots deep into the earth.
The most enchanting aspect of “The Intimate Earth” is the organic intimacy created by Tiffany Holliday’s mastery over strings, a virtuoso capable of combining her delicate touch seamlessly alongside Jenn Grunigen’s relentless attack on the drums. These strings play a prominent role in setting the album’s tone, the guiding hand over both the guitar and the rhythm section, a lead partner alongside vocals. There is also an impressive breadth over tempo, easily explored through longer tracks with carefully designed passages that blend together through expert transitions, such as the seasonal shifts across “Ember Dream.” “Fire Season on the Outer Rim” is simply mind-blowing from start to finish, with a few moments suspended at the whim of Cavan Wagner’s guitar before setting the air ablaze with beastly growls and blast beats. But this album is not all volcanic discord – the softer melancholy of “Sphagnum in the Hinterlands” gives the harsh vocals a comforting role, rolling in much like billowing storm clouds.
What makes “The Intimate Earth” so compelling is the unity and cohesion across instruments and tracks, and perhaps with the earth itself. This begins with the chemistry between members, accentuating one another’s strengths with songs written to bring out the best in each instrument across every passage. It continues with lengthy tracks that bleed into one another, each a step further into the story being told across strings and measured percussion. Felled may be based in Oregon, but their sound connects with the same stylings as European outfits of the same genre. “The Intimate Earth” is a strong first showing from a group who is clearly passionate about their craft,
“The Intimate Earth” Tracklist:
- Ember Dreams
- Fire Season on the Outer Rim
- The Rite of Passage
- Sphagnum in the Hinterlands
- The Salt Binding
- Jenn Grunigen / Drums, Vocals
- Cavan Wagner / Guitars, Vocals
- Isamu Sato / Bass
- Tiffany Holliday / Violin, Vocals
Overall Verdict: 8.3 (Great)
- Songwriting: 8
- Musicianship: 8.5
- Originality: 8
- Production: 8.5