In the arena of folk and pagan influenced metal, which is often (and at times unfairly) thought of as pure silliness, drinking and near cartoonish portrayals, Dutch Folk Metallers Heidevolk have always been a consistently decent outfit, but one that has never reached the mainstream dabblings of a Turisas. Perhaps this is, in part, due to their more balanced take on the genre which sits between the fun-loving, grandiose approach, thoroughbred Heavy Metal grit and a more intelligent, nuanced side; Heidevolk is a name yet to progress beyond the most ardent of Folk Metal fan-bases only.
There is more to their sound and formula than the more conservative Folk/Pagan Metal acts, but that alone that won’t change the minds of the hardened cynics, and it is this trend of conservatism that latest album Vuur Van Verzet (Napalm) doesn’t break from. Nor does it help itself with a surprisingly stuttering start as opening track, and first single, ‘Ontwaakt’ fails to bring the required bombast, and immediately highlights the problematic hit and miss singing of the two vocalists, who, even when combining their voices together, have moments that fail to administer a sense of grandeur or vibrancy. Several others, including ‘A Wolfe In My Heart’, similarly fail to ignite any spark, with passable riffs and flat vocals only, and the album is marred by a flat production that buries the instruments significantly below vocals, somewhat diminishing their effect.
Despite this disconcertingly slow start, however, Vuur Van Verzet suddenly picks itself up. A brief atmospheric passage quickly sees ‘Britannia’ fly out of the blocks, a track that really should have been the album’s lead single, with a fist-pumping opening riff, a towering chorus and singalong passages Sabaton would have been proud of, and everyone finally seems to click. From here Vuur Van Verzet hits its stride, with ‘Gungnir’ mastering both the grin-inducing pomp with intelligent layering, including string sections, and chant-like passages (which are still hampered by unbalanced production values but at least still showcases stronger song-writing).
Having almost shot themselves in the foot entirely with a poor start to an album which thankfully rectifies its mistakes before it is too late, Heidevolk have once again shown just how much of a hidden gem they are in a much-maligned sub-genre.