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3 stars Faun’s longtime mix-master/sounds effects man Niel Mitra’s work seems to be a little less prevalent on this, their band’s fourth album. As a result there is both more of an ‘unplugged’ feel as well a greater emphasis on vocals throughout. The unplugged part makes sense anyway since Mitra seems to be the only one who requires a power chord when the band performs live, the rest of the members relying instead on a wide variety of traditional and sometimes obscure acoustic folk instruments.

This album is also quite a bit slower and less tense than either ‘Licht’ (their second) or ‘Renaissance’ (third) albums, although I have to say that if you play back their first four records in chronological order there is a noticeable progression from rougher, almost dark metal-like songs to these mellower tunes highlighting the ladies’ singing and Oliver Sa Tyr’s proficiency on a range of stringed instruments (though quite heavily reliant on Celtic harp and bouzouki).

While I personally would classify the band’s early work as a sort of blend of neofolk (with heavy pagan undertones) and goth without the mascara and black clothing, this album has almost a renaissance feel to it, especially the middle portion of the record including the female vocal-intensive tunes ‘Tinta’, ‘November’ and ‘Unocorn’. This comes after a fairly tense and brooding opening track ‘Rad’ that includes heavy drone and vocal chanting that characterized much of their first two albums.

After that things slow down until toward the end of the album, beginning with the driving and pulsating “Gaia” and following with “Zeit nach dem Sturm”, a song that were it not for the female vocals reminds me an awful lot of sound Green Carnation perfected on ‘the Acoustic Verses’. The album closes with an a capella rendition of “Der stille Grund” courtesy of Elizabeth Pawelke and Fiona Rüggeberg.

Pawelke would leave the group shortly after this album was released for reasons I’m not aware of. Can’t say as I’ll miss her too much though since there’s only so much you can do with a hurdy-gurdy and that seems to be about the only thing she can play. The band continued their descent into folksiness in 2009 by releasing the all-acoustic ‘Buch der Balladen’, which I suppose signals that the band may next be considering a concept album or greatest hits or something, not sure.

Anyway this one is pretty good, not awesome but not bad either. I keep waiting for the band to blow me away with a studio album and that isn’t happening. But I have to admit every time I see a live video of them I’m inevitably impressed. Not sure they’ll ever wander across the pond and show up in South Dakota, U.S.A. (come in the summer!), but if they do I’ll happily pay to see them. Three stars for this one, same as pretty much all the others and just as recommended.


Report this review (#262057)
Posted Saturday, January 23, 2010 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars I find Totem quite disappointing considering the meteoric rise Faun had achieved from 2002's Zaubersprüche to 2005's Renaissance. After the first two over-electrified songs smack you in the face, the album calms down into simpler song structures that place more emphasis on the vocals--which is similar to their approach on their previous album, Renaissance. But this time there is a lack of power and conviction. There are even several occasions in which I hear obvious instances where the vocal harmonies and musicians' timing are off kilter. Again, disappointing. The lack of emotion conveyed is, to my mind, indicative of intra-band discord. This is Lisa Pawelke's last album with the band--after she had finally achieved prominence and more front time with her vocal talents. She will be missed for an album or two, but, thankfully, the band reloads and comes out better than ever with Buch der Ballladen (2009), Eden (2011), and Luna (2014). The album ends with two songs that are most interesting for the way in which they illustrate the contrast of styles the band has explored: the Goth metal-ish "Zeit nach dem Sturm" and the a cappella female vocal duet between Lisa and Fiona, "Der stille Grund"--perhaps a farewell gesture to Lisa, who left the band to pursue more concentrated studies in classical training. While Totem is a decent, listenable album, it's just not as powerful or engaging as its predecessor.
Report this review (#1344435)
Posted Sunday, January 11, 2015 | Review Permalink

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