In answering the question “What types of music do you like?” one suspects that one is not alone in having answered, from time to time, thus: “ I like two types of music: “heavy” and “metal””. Nurse! Nurse! My sides, they are splitting. For all its supposed open-mindedness and sense of camaraderie, the world of heavy metal can be something of a closed shop with an equally closed mind. It can be a bit of a sense of; you’re either “with us or agin us”. This is fine and understandable to a point but it also can lead to a lack of imagination, a narrow mindedness of view and a dearth of creativity.
I was thinking about this odd paradox when reviewing this beautifully composed and arranged compilation album from the lovely folk at Seasons of Mist. One and All, Together, For Home is a compilation of folk tunes, brilliantly and expertly curated by Roman Saenko of Ukranian black/pagan metal outfit Drukdh and delivered with insight, passion and inventiveness from some of the more interesting bands around at the moment – Primordial, Winterfylleth, Kampfar, Himinbjorg to name but a few.
One and All… is one of those records that has so self-evidently been put together with love and insight, head and heart that one cannot fail but to be utterly captivated and enthralled by the resulting product. Saenko’s aim with this project has been to take a piece of historical folk music from the country of each of the bands represented here and to see what interpretation they would bring and, more, how the folk music of their heritage and hinterland had shaped and influenced their own creative and artistic impulses. The results are surprising, inventive and never anything less than beguiling.
Let’s take Ireland’s Primordial and the UK’s Winterfylleth as two examples of what I am referring to. Primordial’s connection to with Ireland – in the musical and metaphysical senses of the word – has never been in doubt. Here, that connection is amplified and deepened through their contributions; a brooding, contemplative ‘Dark Horse on the Wind’ and a startling rework of ‘The Foggy Dew’, the classic Irish lament, rich in alienation and discord is perfect for vocalist Alan Averill who brings a solemnity and melancholy that is both apposite and baleful.
There’s always been an intelligence and sense of history running through Winterfylleth’s work and their interpretation of ‘John Barleycorn’ only serves to underscore this. Ostensibly a song about drinking, Barleycorn is part of a much deeper English tradition that drives back to medieval times and is part of a broader pastoral heritage examining man’s changing yet enduring relationship with the land. If this is not the sort of thing you would expect to read about when reading a review of a standard heavy metal record, then you would be correct because this is not a standard heavy metal record.
Elsewhere on this exemplary compilation, we travel through Norwegian forests – literal and of the imagination – courtesy of Kampfar, swirl through the historical imagination of Finnish black metal stalwarts Haive, burn across the Gallic countryside and have evocations of Portugese fantasy courtesy of Himinbjorg and Ave Inferi respectively.
There are two aspects of One for All… that linger. First, despite the diversity of the artists involved, geographically and artistically, this is a cohesive body of work underpinned by the traditional folk architecture. Second, you get a very real sense of how heavy metal artists form part of a broader and much richer musical narrative that reaches back much further and deeper than the now familiar story of heavy metal’s genesis in late 1960’s England would seem to suggest.
More, One for All… places folk and metal as unlikely but compelling bedfellows, giving voice and presence to the lonely, the outsider and the dispossessed. When seen in that context, this compilation not only makes complete sense but feels curiously overdue.