Released: 2009, Massacre Records
Considering the countless genres of metal, folk metal has to rank as one of the most interesting and bizarre. Reconciling guitars combined with bagpipes, flutes and hurdy gurdys presents a challenge to many metal fans. Naghtgeschrei is a band from Germany that falls into the medieval subgenre of folk metal. Their debut album was released in 2006 after two well-received demos. On the strength of this material, the band secured a deal with Massacre Records and the newest album was released in March of 2009. AM RANDE DER WELT, which translates to AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD, is the new album that the band has presented to the world with major label backing.
Honestly, I had never heard of this band or listened to much folk metal in general, so I played this album with more enthusiasm than usual. The promotional material boasts AM RANDE DER WELT as an album with “excellent crossover potential in both metal and medieval scenes” as well as having “more heaviness and sharp arrangements” than the debut. The first track certainly delivers on this statement, “Fiur” being a dark and atmospheric instrumental that begins with an acoustic guitar before transitioning into distorted melodic lines very reminiscent of Paradise Lost. The promising start completely disarmed me and left me unprepared for Holger Franz’s vocals on “Muspili”, a voice that conjures images of bards singing in medieval taverns and elves running through the forest. The lyrics are all sung in German, which is not necessarily a detracting point, but Franz’s vocals are an acquired taste to put it mildly. I have not been able to acquire that taste, and since the vocals are a major focal point in the songs this is a problem. A fairly annoying bagpipe is present through the entire song and just does not seem to complement the crunching power chords. “Fernweh” is a semi-ballad that starts out with promise, the music actually being quite melodic and catchy but again Franz’s vocals trounce all over it. The rest of the album is characterized with guitars, flutes, bagpipes, and other instruments struggling vainly to create a cogent and logical sequence of music. The production quality is clear and balanced, which is impressive considering much of the instruments are not amplified or electronic, but the music is simplistic and not one song has a guitar solo.
I would debate the merits of the “crossover appeal” of this album. This is a niche form of music, and not likely to appeal to metal fans of a heavier variety. Bands like this exist for people to play in the background on the way to a Renaissance festival to quaff some mead and smoke a pipe of Elvin weed. You do not rock out to this music or bang your head. One plays this to lose himself in the mood and hear some interesting instruments in a metal setting and then congratulate himself for having broad tastes and an open mind. Forget having fun, because that is not the point here. Simply put, the fans of this music know who they are and this is a perfectly acceptable folk metal album. It is not heavy, and it is not happy, but it is different than most metal genres and for that it deserves some credit.