Review: Artaius – Torn Banners

Location: Sassoulo, Italy
Genre: Folk Metal
Release: May 19, 2015
Format Reviewed: mp3 (160 kbps)
Feature: Global Conquest – Upcoming Releases

By: Kris Kotlarik

The quickest way to summarize my opinion of these Italian folk metallers is this: If you like Epica and Eluveitie with shades of Ensiferum (egads! E’s everywhere!), this should be an album that you will want to check out.

Of course, life is never that simple; Artaius has shown some significant songwriting growth in their second record, and although I would hold off on calling them a “progressive folk metal” act as they have been described, they occasionally show some remarkable flashes of musicianship. This is especially noticeable on the back end of the album (with the exception of “Pictures of Life,” an entirely uneventful ballad). “Pearls of Suffering” carries a hint of Children of Bodom and other melodic death metal bands in the intro, electing to go full synth, while also displaying elements of 70’s prog, especially Jethro Tull thanks to its use of a flutist. There’s also the lengthy synth instrumental in the middle that could have just as easily come from an Ayreon album.

“Dualita” is another solid track with a blasting start that is sung in Italian. Other solid cuts include “The Hidden Path,” “Leviathan,” and “By Gods Stolen,” all of which showcase a wide array of stylistic influences for the band. Where this album falls short, however, is an occasional lack of cohesion coupled with some unclean mixing. This is especially noticeable on “By Humans Reclaimed,” where lead vocalist Sara Cucci, who is solid for most of the record, clashes in sound with the rest of the instrumentation. Something about it just sounds like she was forcing the vocals too hard and paid the price for it as a result.

One last point of interest to look out for is the cameo appearances by Italian singers Lucio Stefani and Dario Caradente, as well as Tim Charles (Ne Obliviscaris). However, none of them really stand out in their performances, which happens occasionally. I get that. But I was under the impression that anything Tim Charles did would basically be a touch from heaven (or, you know, Australia). That was a little disappointing.

In any case, much like a football player making the “big leap” in between their second and third seasons, I expect Artaius to make the leap on their next release. They showed some solid ideas on this one; now it’s all about putting it together.

Overall: Excellent at times; rough on occasion. 

Rating: 2.5*


Review: Eluveitie – Origins

Location: Winterthur, Switzerland
Genre: Folk/Melodic Death Metal
Released: August 1, 2014
Format Reviewed: FLAC
Feature: Global Conquest – Recent Releases

By: Kris Kotlarik

The popularity of Eluveitie has always mystified me. While their releases and live performances feature authentic folk instruments, the music has never struck a chord with me. I’ve always been under the impression that Eluveitie has essentially forced their sound from one album to the next. While I may not be a complete fan of fellow folkers Turisas‘ newer works, they have shown that they are not afraid to change up their sound, which I embrace as a progression for the band.

I came into this review of Origins expecting to come perilously close to roasting it. But much like every other Eluveitie release, I am completely indifferent towards this. A large number of songs came and went without getting any sort of reaction, positive or negative, from me. The ones I particularly didn’t care for, such as “Vianna,” and “Celtos,” had a particularly poppy sound to them. If I were forced to pick highlights, I would start with “The Nameless” and “King,” the latter being the most energetic song by far (and some fancy fiddle work to boot). “The Day Of Strife” is also a decent track.

By and large, this goes down as an unremarkable album for me. It’s not bad; the production is nice, and the folk instruments liven up the arrangements substantially. But there are a number of spoken narrations that add absolutely nothing to the overall sound. The main problem is that there’s not enough to draw me back in for more, and that’s a major problem. 

Overall: Winterthur should stick with progressive death metal. They’re pretty good at it.

Rating: 2.0*