German folk rock/metal band FEUERSCHWANZ are back at it again with their ninth studio release entitled “Das elfte Gebot” [the 11th commandment], which is released tomorrow, June 26, 2020, via Napalm Records. However, fans were able to get a little something extra if they picked up the deluxe edition, which came with a second disc of cover songs. Needless to say, we thought we’d check it out.
Personally, this band was completely unfamiliar to me. Folk and Viking metal was more of my thing 10 years ago and nowadays the genre is so saturated that I’ve all but lost interest in it. However, through various means, this album caught my attention and so I decided to give it a spin… or several.
The short review is that I was very positively surprised by this album. It’s really fun, peppy, and easy to listen to actively or put on in the background as you’re doing something else. There’s nothing offensive to the ear that caught me offhand – no stanky vocals or weird instruments shoved in where they don’t belong just for the sake of having them. Quite the contrary, in fact. Every instrument has its place in the compositions, making for superb folky soundscapes that carry the tunes nicely.
Running longish at eleven tracks on the main disc alone, the music never feels overdone and the songs are kept fairly short, averaging around 3-5 minutes in length, the longest of which is one of the covers from the second disc. The album opens with “Meister der Minne,” which has an eastern-sounding riff that is reminiscent of “Gates of Babylon” by RAINBOW. The upbeat feeling and vocals almost bring SABATON to mind, which makes one even more enthusiastic for the SABATON cover in the second half. The chorus is short and sharp and while I can’t understand the lyrics, it feels like a good song to dance to.
The band seem to have a thing for mead and/or drinking songs, as two songs reference the German “met” [mead], including second track “Metfest” and “Lords of Powermet” later on. The former is an upbeat party song that you can easily imagine pouring some drinks and blasting, while the latter has some heavy metal guitars in the opening and less of a folky vibe but just as much energy.
The title track slows the tempo down a bit, though not a lot, with shredding guitars and strong violins. There’s a soft build-up to the catchy chorus and hints of folkiness in the background. “Kampfzwerg” opens with Viking-choir vocals and some stylish violin melodies blended with a solid heavy metal vibe; the Viking choir returns for the chorus as well, which is a good thing. “Im Bauch des Wals” begins with slower flutes/whistles and a more droning sound and more mellow tempo, though I’m not sure if it would quite qualify to be a ballad as it’s still fairly bombastic.
“Mission Eskalation” has bouncy fiddle melodies with a generally vibrant sound and it’s worth throwing a shout-out to the rhythm section, who really keep things alive and interesting. Of course, every folk/Viking band is wise to fill out their discography with at least one song about warrior women, and FEUERSCHWANZ does this nicely with “Schildmaid,” which has a very authentic folky feel with the strong violin parts and the great pounding drums.
“Malleus Maleficarum” has an only slightly ominous tone to it as the intro notes are long, as opposed to the sharp and quick notes of many preceding tracks. The vocals are backed up by the Viking choir for extra oomph and there’s a pretty decent solo towards the end, followed by church organs – unexpected but they work well. “Totentanz” is very heavy metal and dance-y, though there’s an unusual eastern folk style to it at times. Lyrically, it’s not particularly deep, leading me to believe that this is meant to be more of a party song – or dance song, of course. The first disc closes with the heavy and more epic “Unter dem Drachenbanner,” which is a bit more on the heavy metal side of things as they sing about riding beneath the dragon banner. It’s not the most inspired epic finale I’ve ever heard and could have used a bit more impact, but it’s nevertheless a rather good song.
Once the main album ends, the listener has the opportunity to hear a few various cover songs on the second disc; these are almost exclusively by German bands, starting with a stellar iteration of “Ding” by German hip-hop/reggae/dance band SEEED and “Hier kommt Alex” by DIE TOTEN HOSEN, followed by “Amen and Attack” by POWERWOLF. They then step away from the local bands with “I See Fire” by Ed Sheeran, made popular from the soundtrack to the second part of The Hobbit movies and “Gott mitt Uns” by SABATON. Lastly, they’re back to the German tracks with “Limit” by DEICHKIND and “Engel” by RAMMSTEIN. All are interesting covers with the band’s twist on their sound, with the most interesting, perhaps, being “I See Fire,” which has a bit more of an authentic feel to the movie’s setting than the original.
Ultimately, FEUERSCHWANZ have released a solid collection of heavy folk metal (or folky heavy metal?). While the album may not have as much variety as it may need, the melodies are very good, the vocals are strong, and the folk elements are very well done. The extra covers add some extra flavor for those who are interested, making this a nice addition to what 2020 has had to offer the metal scene.
Written by Bear Wiseman
1. Meister der Minne
3. Das elfte Gebot
5. Im Bauch des Wals
7. Mission Eskalation
8. Malleus Maleficarum
9. Lords of Powermet
11. Unter dem Drachenbanner
1. Ding (Seeed cover)
2. Hier Kommt Alex (Die Toten Hosen)
3. Amen Attack (Powerwolf cover)
4. I See Fire (Ed Sheeran cover)
5. Gott mit uns (Sabaton cover)
6. Limit (Deichkind cover)
7. Engel (Rammstein cover)