Skyforger – Kauja Pie Saules / 2006 Paragon / 9 Tracks / http://www.skyforger.lv / http://www.paragonrecords.net / Reviewed 18 August 2006
This is progressive metal if the progressive metal people actually knew what they were singing about. This is in stark contrast to acts like Blind Guardian, who have their best songs dealing with a trilogy of overrated book. For Skyforger, these songs are in their blood, the compositions those that have been based off their family and country life for hundreds of years. During “Neighed The Battlehorses”, Skyforger show what a somber drinking song must sound like. There is a sense that everyone around the table is singing this, but that the battle that they are going off to fight may be one in which not everyone comes back. The track is short and allows Skyforger to go into “The Battle of Saule”, a track that has much more of a current sound to it.
The blend of old and new styles is something that does not sound too broken up or disconnected; the choral style of the vocals can work alongside the double bass drums and the confident guitar work of the rest of the band. Even when Skyforger goes into a thrash metal band, they are still able to call up on the specters of previous eras. While the tracks on “Kauja Pie Saules” are a minute or so longer than equivalent pop and rock tracks, the fact that the band does not allow themselves to do seven and eight minute tracks gives this disc an energy that many progressive and gloom metal acts just do not have. The inclusion of a flute type instrument during pieces of “The Ancient Oak” allows this blend of new and old styles to continue being in the recent memory of their listeners.
This is not a band that will just start off the disc with something classical and then remove themselves from that a short time later. As I said, their history is their life, and even the guitar arrangements can at times be reconciled with the ways and traditions of the old country. Ther disc may first have been cut in 1998, but the compositions on this are timeless. I have no doubt that individuals that listen to this album in 2100 will determine that this is a traditional recording, and use it as a way to reconstruct human society after we’ve all disappeared from the face of this planet. The compositions are furious while still showing a sage wisdom at all points; Skyforger make an album that simultaneously stands in the old and new ways, and makes it work at all points.
Top Tracks: Neighed The Battlehorses, The Ancient Oak