Descended and handed down in Copenhagen around 1997 and consecrated in Bornholm in 2007-2008. Recorded at Soundscape Studio, Copenhagen, as well as Texas, Washington and Berlin between 2007 and 2008. Mixed and mastered at Soundscape Studio, Copenhagen in June 2008. Engineered by Louise Nipper.
With an album cover that looks like it has been taken from a medieval edition of Where’s Wally (that’s Where’s Waldo for our North American viewers) I perhaps should have anticipated this being a folk album (neo-folk or dark folk, for those into more defined sub-genres), but having listened to this album on and off for the last three weeks I’m now up to speed.
Of all the other albums I’ve reviewed to date, this can be most compared to Splinterskin—Wayward Souls (2009). But it’s much, much less spooky. This album I wouldn’t think twice about playing in the dark.
The whole album is very acoustic (as opposed to electric) in nature. The songs are formed around acoustic guitars with accompanying flourishes played on violin, glockenspiel, Appalachian dulcimer, recorder (but more Stairway to Heaven than primary school music class), accordion, and bodhran. It’s a very gentle album but mildly dark in places… just like human nature, I guess.
The opening track “I saw them through the pines / they only walk on moss” (track 1) is built around a repeating, descending chord progression with gentle vocals that at times whisper “I saw them through the pines”… which I’m hoping is some kind of happen-chance romantic encounter and not a medieval-sounding ballad to stalking.
“Through the trees spears the sun” (track 2) is a beautiful song, in a similar nature to the previous. Instrumental “Fenella” (track 3) opens with a very pretty high, picked arpeggio that makes it sound like a harp, over which are blown recorders.
“The blood of my lady” (track 4) is a song that makes a reappearance later in the album (track 9). I still haven’t worked out what it means. Has she been injured? Or put to death? Or is it some kind of medieval homage to menstruation? Whatever it is, it’s still pretty dark.
“O deep woods” (track 5) features a reverb-heavy female vocalist that gives the song an other-worldly feel. It’s here that we venture more closely towards Splinterskin. It’s a beautiful song, though.
“Nakkiel II” (track 6) has some pace and a bit of life. Like sunshine filling an otherwise shaded forest. This song should have been called “Through the trees spears the sun”! French horn, glockenspiel. This instrumental song has it all.
“Midnight garden” (track 7) is one of the most stereotypical medieval songs on the album. You can imagine the court at dance to this one. Instrumental “Samorost” (track 8) follows suit: more dancing please. Samorost, seemingly is a Czech word used to describe objects that have been sculpted from discarded wood..
“Hemlock and mandrake fields” (track 10) features an accordion. Now, I usually can’t stand the sound of accordions (ever since one chased me down the road when I was a little child!) but it works here, although it does little more than pad out chords.
“The swallows spirals through them” (track 11) is another beautiful track. The melody played on violin spirals like smoke into the sky. And the lyrics haunt:
There’s a vault in the woods
And a throne of moss
A crown of black caress
And a spell of emptiness
They all have black hole eyes
Their voice between the mist and the moor
The swallows spirals through them
The swallows spirals through them
“Now that the blackbird took my eyes” sings the opening line of “Nihil sum” (track 12). Things are getting weird now. This is the song that jars most on the album, and feels a little out of place.
The album closes with a redux of the opening track, this time “I saw her through the pines” (track 13). A gentle end to a gentle album.
This has been quite a lovely album to live with over the last few months. It is gentle but in places dark. I’m not sure we can truly claim that it is metal but it does have some of the attitude of metal, and there are elements that wouldn’t go amiss on an Opeth album, so we’ll let it pass this once.
I’ve really enjoyed this album. It has emotional depth. It is interesting. And quite, quite beautiful.
Review score: 95%