In light of the recent COVID-19 pandemic, bands and musicians are needing to be more and more creative in their outreach. CORVUS CORAX, for example, too the little time there was left to pre-film a live show and streamed it on March 21st, 2020. The show was free of charge, with donations allowed and 10% of proceeds going to their local food bank, Laib & Seele Berlin Hermsdorf. Since everyone is encouraged to stay home, what better way to spend the evening than trying out some new music?
The stream was set in a small venue with a variety of camera angles available, including a few drum/percussion cams. Whoever did the video cut was perhaps a bit overzealous as the viewer hardly had time to register a visual before it cut over to another camera angle. They could’ve given us some time to breathe, so to speak. If there is another complaint about the stream itself, it was the notification, “donation options can be found under this video,” which was in a very basic font and a bit too big and abrasive at the bottom of the screen to have there for the entire show. It could have perhaps done a slow flash or have been in a smaller, slightly less obvious font so it wouldn’t take away from the show itself.
But I digress… onto the music itself! Having never listened to CORVUS CORAX before, the stream offered a new way to experience a band’s music for the first time. Playing a lot of very cool-looking instruments, there was no shortage of people on the stage, nor interesting-looking instruments, from a variety of different (bag)pipes, a huge hurdy-gurdy the size of a guitar, several gongs, and a lute/guitar-like instrument with horns. The band began with “Saltatio Mortis” and after the first song, vocalist Castus Rabensang greeted the viewers. As a German band, we couldn’t understand what was being said, but luckily they extended their greetings into English as well, saying that it was unfortunate that they couldn’t smell us, and another greeted the viewers in Spanish as well.
If this band’s whole deal is researching medieval music and sounds, the show certainly delivered. The live-without-audience was a bit evident though, as the common positive feedback loop from the band giving and receiving energy from the audience was, of course, missing, and the speeches to no one felt a bit strange. That is to be expected though, being among the first bands to try this format.
The pipes were at the forefront of many songs, with vocals interspersed to add flavor as needed. There was a lot of traditional sound to the style and they may even use some traditional folk songs in their music (similar to ELUVEITIE). Around the fourth song, “Hugin & Munin,” the vocalist did a dramatic intro with a large prop that turned out to be some sort of alpenhorn. Relying on droning sounds from the horn and hurdy-gurdy, as well as drums, this song had considerably less bagpipe, allowing for a break from that very intense sound. It was also the only song whose name I understood, as Hugin and Munin are Odin’s ravens.
The vocalist brought out a thorny, turquoise-colored… acoustic mandolin, I think, for a lively piece that would have easily had the crowd dancing around and certainly made us stand up and dance about a bit in the living room. They explained in German, English, and Spanish that this show was pre-recorded a few days before it was released, as they wanted to get on the opportunity before everything closed down, implying that if they hadn’t pre-filmed the show, they wouldn’t have been able to do it at all. Most of the songs, while unfamiliar, were quite creative and fun. Though the live energy was slightly awkward, they nevertheless did their best and the playing and performance were fun to see. They ended the set with “Havfru” and “Ragnarök” before taking their bows and saying farewell. The show concluded with a still of the setlist, which was a nice touch!
While the overall vibe was a bit unusual without the crowd – a bit like watching the dress rehearsal as opposed to the wedding – the show was really a lot of fun to watch and I could easily see myself going to see them in person – something I may have never tried had it not been for this stream. Nevertheless, the watcher missed the energy from the crowd.
1. Saltatio Mortis
3. Crenaid Brain
4. Hugin & Munin
5. Her Wirt
7. Sauf Noch Ein
Written by Bear Wiseman