Label: AFM Records
Release Date: May 24, 2013
A lot of school-going students will always name history as their least favorite subject. Long, boring stories, and jumbles of meaningless dates and names that have next to no application to their present-day lives. Well, they just haven’t yet heard the most epic heavy metal soundtrack to ever grace a popular Welsh historic legend, and that is the new album by German folk metal stalwarts Suidakra, titled Eternal Defiance.
The aforementioned Welsh legend being “The Dream of Macsen Wledig”: Suidakra have crafted their most interesting mélange yet of melodic death metal and Celtic folk elements around its story. The finished product being a tale of (at the risk of repeating the word) epic proportions.
The album starts off with the awe-inspiring call to war that is “Storming The Walls”. Movie soundtrack-inspired keyboard and string arrangements with doses of violin and war-scene sound effects make its intro very immersive, with some really heavy riffage, bass and drums carrying the rest of it forward with aplomb. The next track, “Inner Sanctum” continues in the same vibe, alternating between mid-pace and speedy power metal-ish tempos.
And so Suidakra belt out war tune after Celtic war tune throughout Eternal Defiance. One noticeable development that makes it unique from the band’s past releases this that there is a lot more use of orchestral sound arrangements here, which were no doubt added to contribute to the album’s historical concept. Suidakra‘s session collaborators Axel Römer on bagpipes and Tina Stabel on additional vocals are also in a more prominent role here, with both also taking part in songwriting this time. Stabel even has a folk song all to her own in “The Mindsong”, as well as singing a duet with vocalist Arkadius Antonik in “Defiant Dreams”. Both Römer and Stabel should be credited for forming a natural extension of Suidakra‘s sound, and it’s a wonder they aren’t permanent members yet.
In the main point, the experienced unit of Arkadius Antonik on vocals, guitars, keys and banjo, Marius “Jussi” Pesch on guitars, Tim Siebrecht on bass and Lars Wehner on drums display their sharpest and most brutal folk metal sound yet, this time adding power metal influences in the mix as well. Tracks swap from bagpipes and lead-guitar solos on “Pair Dadeni” and “Rage For Revenge” to an Irish folk tune on “Mrs. McGrath”. The band also offer respites with the folk sounds of “The Mindsong” and “Damnatio Memoriae”. All of this crafted around the Welsh legend gives it a larger-than-life feel, which is the biggest achievement of this material.
And the album’s run through history ends with “Defiant Dreams” and “Damnatio Memoriae”. The former track is one final sample of Suidakra‘s brutal folk metal style on this album before the mellifluous acoustic folk tune of the latter. Its name meaning “condemnation of memory”, a judgment given to dissidents in olden times, it’s rambling acoustic instrumentation as well as its clean vocals give it the feel of a prominent figure forcibly erased from memory, before ending with some great symphonic elements.
All in all, this is one of Suidakra‘s strongest releases yet, and a much more focused concept album than 2006’s slightly misguided Caledonia, if I might add. The band play to their strengths and at the same time don’t shy from trying out new elements, making this a great balance of brutal and melodic. Would that all our history chapters be this epic more often.
Reviewed by: Sairaj Kamath