The thing about viking metal for me is that I’ve rarely been able to recapture that grandiose, epic feeling that Falkenbach gave me in their prime. Until now, that is. Strangely enough, I got my fix from Dutch outfit Heidevolk. The band sings in Dutch but to the untrained ear, it will sound Scandinavian. Their latest effort is entitled Batavi and was just released on Napalm records. The epic melodic progressions that were viking metal’s most endearing quality are here but the album also carries with it a lot of muscle, which is in itself is probably one of the biggest reasons we listen to metal anyway. Considering that Peter Tagtegren, the Dr. Dre of extreme metal himself, produced this bad boy, might have something to do with it.
From “Een Nieuw Begin” and “De Toekomst Lonkt” you know what this album is gonna be about. Godly vocal hooks, mashing palm muted riffs, rolling double bass and even some repeat brocals. In a nutshell, that’s what Batavi is about. That and the awesome lyrical concepts contained therein. Though most of us can’t understand a word, just thinking about these historical events and letting the war hymns sink in is an experience. You see, the Batavi were a group of Germanic tribes that fought off those pesky Romans along the banks of the Rhine river. It was a very important point in the genesis of what are now the respective cultures of Germany, Austria and the Netherlands as it forced the people to unite in ways that would later define these nations/empires. The reality however is that the music exhibits a lot of familiar aesthetics for folk metalists; the violin, the flute, the bass-and-baritone vocal duet, the ancient warfare concept album….see where I’m going with this? During their more aggressive moments they sound like a more folk oriented Amon Amarth and include some flurries of lead guitar for good measure; the rest of the time they fit into the polished viking metal seige camp popularized by Otyg and Vintersorg. The fact is that, in terms of folk/viking metal, it’s pretty damn good but it is unlikely to win over those –and of whom there are many– who find much of the genre to be derivative. HOWEVA, once again it’s fair to ask, “who cares if that wasn’t the fucking point to begin with?” The melodies are memorable and the band avoids muddling up their sequences and song structures, which earns lots of gold stars in my book. I could have used a little more ambition about halfway through the album but the first few tracks kill and the last few finish the album strong. Batavi is a headbangable collection of impeccably crafted metallic battle hymns that will not break new musical boundaries but do set a very high standard for execution.