Fact: if you dig the folky black stuff and you’re not yet hep to Fólkvangr Records, you need to correct that post haste. Italian duo Selvans’s Lupercalia is the third release of theirs to end up in my inbox, and it’s another stunner. I know I said this in my review of the Sojourner record, but it’s worth repeating: whoever is curating these reissues has impeccable taste.
Originally released by Avantgarde in 2015, Lupercalia is one of those rare black metal records that manages to be dramatic without overdoing it on the bombast. There are all the usual touchstones in terms for folk/black metal in Selvans’s sound, but there’s a lot more going on here that that. Imagine Behemoth with more folk elements (primarily flute/pipes) or Dimmu Borgir with some self-restraint, and that’s a decent starting point. The arrangements on this record are massive, and the clean production perfectly compliments their scale. The album sounds fantastic, to the point where I had to look up whether the strings were recorded live or programmed on a synth.
Production only carries an album so far, though – ultimately, it always comes down to the songs. Lupercalia is five epic songs, ranging from just under nine minutes in length to just over seventeen, plus a shorter intro track, and for the most part, the songwriting justifies the track lengths, weaving together numerous sections ranging from second wave black fury to ambient synth washes, with plenty of folk elements along the way. The strongest track on the record is probably “O Clitumne!” and a lot of what makes it so effective is the lengthy folk passage that features mandolin, accordion, and other traditional Italian folk instruments. The clean vocals on closer “N. A. F. H.” make that track another standout. The only track that doesn’t quite work for me is “Hirpi Sorani,” which feels a bit unfocused and meandering compared to the rest of the record. Lyrically, the album deals with Italic cults, folklore, and spirituality, which also sets it apart from other folk/black bands – in fact, I can’t think of a single other band dealing with Italian folklore.
All told, Lupercalia is another highly enjoyable release from Fólkvangr that will appeal to fans of bands like Drudk, early Moonsorrow (particularly Kivenkantaja), or Eluveite. Check it out, especially if you’re into the cassette thing. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to figure out how to get my hands on a decent tape deck…
Lupercalia will be available on limited edition cassette on April 21 via Fólkvangr Records.
Clayton T. Michaels (Senior Editor) is a mild-mannered college English teacher by day, and a craft beer drinking, black metal and grindcore loving misanthrope by night. He’s also an award-winning poet and rabid Red Sox fan. Send him your promos at [email protected] You can also find him posting pictures of black metal cassettes and beer can labels on Instagram as @ironhops.