Since releasing their debut album De Strijdlust Is Geboren in 2005, Dutch pagan folk metallers Heidevolk have been gaining popularity within the European folk metal scene. Uit Oude Grond, their third full-length, seems likely to continue that trend with its energetic blend of strident, old-school metal riffage, rousing vocal harmonies, traditional folk melodies and jaunty, jig-along pacing.
The band come roaring out of the gate with ‘Nehalennia’, and immediately you’re struck by the clear and forceful production. The thrashy, searing riffage is served well by throaty, roaring tones, while the drumming sounds positively huge, particularly when Joost den Vellenknotscher unleashes flurries of thunderous tom rolls. The twin vocals of Joris Boghtdrincker and Mark Splintervuyscht are given clarity and presence in the mix, allowing their harmonised clean singing and more forceful grunted vocals to really have their impact felt. The pair sing in their native Dutch, which is slightly disappointing since I was really interested to hear what the pair are singing so emotively about – just try and stop yourself from singing along to the chorus’ refrain of “Nehalenniaaaaaaa”.
It’s not all thrashy heaviness, however – more blackened tremolo-picked riffage rears its head from time to time, like on ‘Ostara’, while the band also show great adeptness at taking their foot off the gas and treating us to slower, more doom-paced material (see ‘Gelders Lied’, with its mournful yet elegaic lead guitar lines and baritone, solemn vocals). Woven throughout all of the tracks, too, are more traditional folk elements – session violinist Irma Vedelaer weaves delicate melodies throughout the tracks, while mouth harps and blowing horns all make welcome appearances. ‘Alvermans Wraak’ is a positively jolly-sounding instrumental affair, with bouncy rhythms blending with syncopated acoustic guitar and violin lines to create a sort of metallic Renaissance Fair theme, before distorted guitars come crashing in and add a metallic heft, followed by a shred-happy solo and an altogether more epic vibe – then, the track closes out to the sounds of a drunken sing-along. You can practically taste the flagons of ale. Tenth track ‘Deemstering’, too, is a gorgeous three-minute instrumental blending acoustic arpeggios and gradually-building layers of strings into a contemplative, pastoral soundtrack.
Overall, this is a really impressive record. I’m not usually a huge fan of folk metal – Finntroll and their ilk leave me cold, as it frequently comes across as a bit too ‘hey-nonny-nonny’ for my tastes. Heidevolk smartly sidestep this distaste by not skimping on the metallic core of their sound, and tastefully deployed traditional instruments and melodies without going into cheesy maypole-dancing territory. Their riffage is catchy, their songwriting diverse enough to retain interest, and the singers in particular use their voices exceptionally well, inspiring the urge to sing along even without knowing what the words mean. Basically, this comes highly recommended for fans of bands like Falkenbach and Obtest – and if you haven’t heard anything by them or are generally unfamiliar with the folk metal milieu, you could do far worse than investigate this album as an introduction.