To say that folk metal has not really grabbed my attention over the years is a bit of an understatement as the albums and the bands i have heard/seen in this genre so far, with the exception of Turisas,have been boring. But that has changed after hearing Zmaji, the opening song on Avven’s second full length studio album, Kastalija. Rushing in like a hybrid of early Steeleye Span and Jethro Tull, the song is sung in the band’s native Slovenian tongue over a stirring musical backdrop of violin/guitar/tin whistle and during it’s thrilling 3 minutes, there are massive choruses and a brass break midway. Apart from one track fully sung in English ,( Tarak ) the rest of Kartalija is sung in Slovenian which makes it even more dramatic.
Kastalija comes from ancient Greek mythology, meaning ” source of inspiration ” and is the best blend of folk, rock and metal i have ever heard. 8 out of the 10 tracks are near the 3 minute mark so are not too self indulgent but still allow Avven enough time to show off their musical/vocal dexterity. Whether the vocals are solo, duet or choral, they are very stirring and emotionally delivered. Avven sound positively proud to be delivering their songs. Kastalija was released in April 2011 and can be bought for 12 Euros from their website at www.avven.com as they are an unsigned band.
Formed in Kresnice, Slovenia in 2004, Avven started as a trio but the current line up features 7 members. The band’s name is the Welsh translation of Awen, meaning ” poetic inspiration “. There is no letter w in the Slovenian alphabet so they settled on using 2 letter v’s. So, back to the album. Following opening track Zmaji, Ros begins with a lone keyboard, soon joined by slamming drums and guitar as a lilting female vocal precedes huge choruses, the song ending with strings and keyboards. The deceiving Nuala starts with strings, piano and a female vocal, leading to a male vocal over a single drumbeat as a choral segment heralds crashing riffs before call and response male and female vocals bringing it to a close. Vvile’s acoustic guitar and flute intro riff is taken on by an electric guitar as the male vocal, backed by pipes, is followed by yet another massive vocal chorus as violins and sweeping keyboards precede a dual vocal ending over more huge guitars. Ibo’s vocal “hey hey ” opening over accordion and guitars followed by a violin and bar room style vocals give it a folk metal jig feel but once again the band vocals make it very emotional, leading to a heavy rock ending. Tarak is probably the heaviest song on Kartalija. Sung in a gruff English vocal, the combination of a heavy guitar riff, thumping bass and strings make it a good drinking song! Hej Ti’s drum intro sounds a bit like Marilyn Manson’s, The Beautiful People but the similarities end there as a killer sustained guitar precedes another huge vocal as the guitar heavy mid section gives way to strings and flute before the guitars bring Hej Ti to a rollocking finish. Personal highlight of the album is sPain. That is how it is spelt on the album cover and, as the title suggests it is Spanish influenced as handclaps start the song with a stabbing guitar joined by trumpets and an atmospheric chorus that Meatloaf would be proud of. L78 is the perfect example of folk and hard rock on Kastalija. A heavy guitar, bolstered by solid drums and yet more dramatic band vocals segue into an accordion, guitar and string battle as dual operatic vocals close the song. Closing track Tornach is again very guitar orientated alongside more stunning drum patterns and a fantastic guitar and strings interplay midway, a stark contrast to the song’s harpsichord and string intro.
Kastalija is an album i never expected to like but was immediately blown away by it’s originality and feel good atmosphere. If you are a fan of folk metal then you will lap Kastalija up. If you are not a fan of this genre then give it a try, you will not be disappointed and a few of the album’s tracks can be heard on youtube.
Avven band line up :-
Peter Dimnik – Keyboards.
Anej Ivanuska – Tin and low whistles/wooden flute/bagpipes.
Primoz Lajovic – Vocals/guitar.
Gasper Sinkovec- Guitar/vocals/accordion.
Uros Rozina – Bass/vocals.
Miha Bes – Drums/percussion.
Barbara Upelj – Violin.
Kastalija track listing :-
I award Kastalija a ground breaking 10/10!