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Crimfall - The Writ Of Sword CD (album) cover




Progressive Metal

4.21 | 5 ratings

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Dr. Judkins
4 stars I picked this one up on a whim after seeing it show up on the list of new releases. Although I'm not a big metal fan, I had a good feeling about this group for some reason (probably because I'm a sucker for anything with a viking prominently displayed on its cover), and was pleasantly surprised.

Things don't start off that wonderful for me, and I was thinking I'd been disappointed at first. For almost the first three minutes of the record, things are unremarkable. The first track eases you into the album with the almost stereotypical sound of a haunting atmospheric buildup, which lasts for about two minutes, although is very nicely produced, something that is a staple of what makes this album great. The first minute of the second track, Storm Before The Calm, doesn't sound at all like something I'd typically like to listen to, with a driving simplistic metal guitar riff, and indecipherable screaming vocals. That's when Helena's haunting and enchanting voice comes in, along with a nicely recorded orchestral arrangement, and you're drawn back in to see what else this group has to offer. Then back into another verse more or less similar to the first minute of the song again. Throughout the song, this back-and-forth happens, with interjections of larger orchestral parts and a little folk ditty that separate the song up very well and keep things interesting.

As I've so often found in progressive metal, the first track is only a taste, and once that's out of the way, the band seems to feel more "free" to really get into the meat of things. This is shown immediately in the phenominal introduction to the second track, Frost Upon Their Graves, led once more by those haunting and enchanting (hauntchanting?) female vocals, and backed by the chants of a large chorus. The use of the male screaming vocals is much more intuitive here and throughout the rest of the disc, serving as a nice contrast to the smoother female vocals. Often the orchestra switches between playing behind Helena or playing behind Mikko, which adds another nice layer of juxtaposition that Crimfall accomplishes so well throughout this album.

After allowing myself to warm up to The Writ Of Sword, the thing I've taken away most from it is that strong power of juxtaposition that this group of Finns has done a great job with. I should say that I'm not a fan of black metal, or the majority of death metal, and rarely see the elements of such as positives to music. But this album is pieced together from several distinct elements of music, all serving their own purpose, everything getting its due notice, especially considering the excellent production involved. The range of instruments and vocals is incredibly dynamic, and everything comes through crisp and full, from smaller stringed instruments, to the traditional rock instruments, to the magnificent orchestra that really brings everything else together so nicely. There is no suffering from the different sounds bleeding through and saturating one another, as often is a concern in harder styles of music.

But all of that said, the best thing about what Crimfall is doing with The Writ Of Sword involves the ominous, chanting chorus. The vocals really reach their height at the epic seventh track, Geađgái, which puts on display the varied tones of the singers' voices, to the point that you can easily individually pick out many of them, while still functioning as one complete unit, underscored by driving metal rhythms.

The chorus doesn't just add haunting atmosphere to buildups and orchestral passages though. They're also frequently given the task of singing the melody, as on Cáhceravga and Shackles Of The Moirai. In fact, I'm much more impressed by the melodies this chorus sings through the album than what any one instrument does in particular. Truly, this is an album with an emphasis on strong and beautiful vocals, harkening back to the traditional styles of music it takes so much inspiration from.

Silver And Bones is clearly the opus of the album, taking everything that the listener has been gradually introduced to throughout, and combining it all for an 8 minute epic putting all of the group's influences together; fast and slow tempos, soft and hard instrumentation, uplifting and saddening melodies, occasional dissonant chords, and showing the chorus and orchestra at their most prominent, and most accomplished. This track also includes the first (and only) instance of a guitar solo on the album, nothing incredibly remarkable and not particularly frontward in the mix, but very respectable and a nice change of pace in a song that seems to be about putting together lots of influences and styles into one cohesive experience.

Overall the album flows together well (thanks in some part also to some excellent field recordings of nature used in between a few of the tracks), and remains interesting throughout, despite succumbing to the occasional cliche. I recommend this album for prog fans who have a hard time getting into progressive metal, as here on Writ Of Sword, the "progressive" part really shines through to welcoming ears. Not to mention, this is something I can put on a CD in my car for all my metal fan friends who can't stand my musical tastes, and won't mind listening to while they get to bang their heads to it :)

Dr. Judkins | 4/5 |


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