Lavishly over the top and steeped in history, medieval metal is one of the strangest off-shoots of folk metal to emerge in the last 15-years. Predominantly originating from Germany, bands like In Extremo and Schandmaul have helped pioneer this beyond-quirky, utterly audacious form of music and Saltatio Mortis are not excluded for their contributions to the sub-genre.
Almost bizarrely, Sturm aufs Paradies ( Storm Of Paradise) not only marks a milestone ten albums into their existence but proves that there’s still room for a type of music that should really have ran out of creative juices by now.
The first half of this record gives you more than you would first anticipate, but the second half is incredible – it simply blows you away. There’s usually always a duff song somewhere and that comes in a double block, with third track Ode An Die Feindschaft and fourth Eulenspiegel – both not suffering terribly but perhaps less interesting in relation to the rest of the record on second listening.
Not usually the kind of songs with a delicate touch, track-seven Gott Würfelt Nicht is where the superior level begins. It has a genuine ballad-like constitution, subtley crafting a beautiful crescendo from surprisingly astute, lovely balance of folk instruments creeping in to assist Alea der Bescheidene’s vibrating bravado vocals.
So easily and often there’s two extremes with medieval themed folk metal – the folk instruments are used as gimmick or they’re overused – but this bold Bavarian bunch prove that experience has carved them into a fluent, self-assured and potent entity.
Nacht Jahr Und Tag and Orpheus both mark out the brilliant balance in production too, with a heavy set of metallic riffs inter-twisted solidly among some expert hurdy gurdy and bagpipe playing. Spiel Mit Dem Feuer will have you bouncing in its dancey introduction and chorus, but the verses are perfect reflection of just why Saltatio Mortis are good at this – they can muster verses with splashes of ancient sadness yet make them so catchy you want to sing along.
Previously we would have held the notion that 13 tracks of such music might tip one over the edge, but it’s left us with a different legacy – we’re getting the kilts out, heading for the hills and gearing up for a metal crusade.