When one thinks of folk metal, images typically conjured up are mostly medieval in nature, or at least the ones in my mind, and similar to the lone warrior pictured on the cover of Risen to Fight by Morgarten. Morgarten combines the traditional with the modern in their take on folk metal, perhaps much like their home that is renowned for watchmaking and is also becoming a technology hub.
Given the epic nature of most folk metal, it seems fitting that the bands involved be from areas with rich history and Morgarten is no exception, hailing from Neuchâtel in Switzerland, where the official language is French and the city itself is sometimes referred to by its German name “Neuenburg” (or so Wikipedia tells me). The band traces its history back to 2005 and as a unit began playing shows in 2006. They have opened for some more well-known bands including Frosthardr, War of Ages, HB, and Deuteronorium among others and Risen to Fight is their first release.
Risen to Fight starts out with the mournful sounding very folk sounding “Beyond the Mist,” which can be almost considered as an intro piece for the album as it establishes the folk connection and showcases the potential of the band for some vocal harmonies and their incorporation of some traditional instruments accented by keyboards. The song itself does build towad the end as any good intro track should.
“Called to War” is our first exposure to the traditional instruments being incorporated into the modern metal. As is the case with many folk metal bands, the traditional does tend to overshadow the metal a bit. Vocals in this case are the deep, growling death/black metal in style which fits well with the darker tone of the song. Fast drums and guitar really carry the song along but are largely in the background with the folk elements providing much of the soundscape.
“Path in the Darkness” and “The Final Attack” both start out with some medieval chorus-like clean signing that establishes the overall feel of the songs before the instruments even begin. That being said, “Path in the Darkness” is a bit different with some piano accent and faster tempo. This brings me to one of the other strong points in the album in that there is a good bit of variety in the songs. Some are slower, some are heavier and some lean more to metal than folk while others are the opposite in that regard. Production is clean as it needs to be in this genre where one needs to be able to hear the traditional instruments alongside the modern metal and in general the overall sound mix is good as well although the modern instruments may be a touch too quiet for my liking at times. My only quibble might be some overuse of the double bass drum in the songs, but as one would expect, each song has a wall of sounds coming through which distract one from the drums, so this is really a minor issue.
From a performance perspective, there are no weak points in the sound from Morgarten, but it is difficult to highlight any one aspect as outstanding. Looking through band members biographies, each has a number of different instruments they have learned over time and perhaps that in itself says a lot about the band as becoming competent in multiple instruments and being able to incorporate those into your sound is not something many bands have mastered.
At times, this album almost borders on the symphonic metal as well. Songs like “Ancestral War” remind me more of the complex arrangements and instrumentation in symphonic metal than the somewhat simpler arrangements in traditional folk metal. Perhaps Morgarten has hit on the symphonic folk metal genre, whether they know it or not. From a pure listening perspective, this is an enjoyable album in many regards, there is obviously the driving metal rhythms, but also the lighter and unexpected tones of from the traditional instruments, and the complex arrangements typical of symphonic metal. The result is one of those albums that will remain an interesting listen for many, many plays.
Written by John Jackson
1. Beyond the Mist
2. Called to the War
3. Path in the Darkness
4. Wind from the Forest
5. Ancestral War
6. The Lost Hordes
7. The Final Attack
8. Revelations of the Graveyard
Ilann – Guitar, backing vocals
Pierric – Vocals, guitar
Cédric – Bass, backing vocals
Joël – Drums
Maël – Keyboards
Record Label: Independent, March 2015
Interview with Morgarten (July 2015)
Video below: “Risen to Fight” (Teaser)
Video for ‘Called to the War’
Video for ‘Path in the Darkness’