Here at the esteemed Indy Metal Vault Corporation, we like to show lots of love to our friends at Fólkvangr Records. Ever since the label’s conception, Fólkvangr has been something of a tastemaker. Mark signs what he likes, nothing more, nothing less. Fortunately, I feel like my tastes align pretty closely with his, as he’s yet to back an album I haven’t enjoyed. I’m not in the habit of inflating review scores or giving faint praise, so hopefully to you that statement carries with it some weight.
Tales of the Elder Forest is the latest album in Fólkvangr’s ever-growing repertory of blackened, folk-flavoured metal, but it represents their first foray into the haunted woods of symphonic black metal. First things first, Eskapism sure have earned their name. Their take on black metal’s symphonic strain is one full of grandeur, exuberance and bombast, though none of the grandiosity comes of as vanity or overindulgence, and never overshadows the black metal. For those of you who are fans of Emperor’s classic symphonic splendour, Eskapism are sure to make you frown in pleasure. Eskapism channel some of the coldness of early Norwegian black metal through their icy tremolos, harsh, howled vocals and blitzkrieg drumming, but take no small amount of inspiration from the new-school of atmospheric black metal as well.
When it comes to music like this, I could describe the way the band plays, I could describe individual riffs, and I could even mention the lack of audible bass, but if you’re reading this review, odds are you’re only interested in one thing: the feel. What moods are present on this album? What emotions do they cycle through, what are the overarching themes? When talking about black metal such as this, these are the important questions.
Throughout Tales of Elder Forest Eskapism cycle through several moods, from melancholic and wistful to triumphant and lively. The music is extremely expressive and absolutely dripping with raw emotion. It’s got a strange nostalgic quality to it, a pervasive sadness that lingers even behind the album’s most upbeat moments, giving it a feeling of real depth and adding to the already dense depth of emotion the album has to offer. This is expressed through the quasi-symphonic elements at play throughout Tales of Elder Forest. In the background, there’s always something interesting going on.
Unfortunately, it’s sometimes tough to make out exactly WHAT it is that’s happening behind the wall of buzzing guitars. One thing Eskapism borrows liberally from nineties bands is their poor production quality. Music like this shouldn’t be mastered clinically, in a way that would make it too clean and sterile, but cleaning the sound up a bit and performing a spit-shine on the dynamics certainly wouldn’t have hurt. But seeing as that’s my biggest complaint with the album, it gets a solid pass in my book.
Tales of Elder Forest is an emotionally captivating album, best experienced through good headphones and by yourself in a scenic location. With Autumn just around the corner, I’m going to hold this album in reserve, because I feel it would benefit very much from the proper listening circumstances. If you’ve ever wondered what would happen if you mashed up an atmospheric black metal band with ‘Anthems-era Emperor, Eskapism will be right up your alley.
Tales of Elder Forest is now available via Fólkvangr Records .