Skyforger – ‘Kurbads’, Metal Blade; 2010

Seven years since their last LP ‘Thunderforge‘, Latvian folk metallers Skyforger return to the scene with new album ‘Kurbads‘; which not only sees a brief departure from their historical-based fare but a slight change towards a thrashier direction through their black metal-infused sound.

Compared to ‘The Battle of Saule‘ and ‘Latvian Riflemen‘, ‘Kurbads‘ is a continuation of the war theme established by them. As with its predecessors, this comes forth in the lyrics, instrumentation and overall atmosphere (not including the bonus cover song); yet unlike these albums there is another aspect that affects the musical output here. Whereas ‘Latvian Riflemen‘ for instance had an ongoing sense of fear and uncertainty for the soldiers’ fate by the end, this more recent release has at least the asset of closure  – throughout the songs, the audience is introduced to the world that the title character is born into, his trials as a hero and then finally his death when he kills the evil Snake Witch.

As a result, the entire record plays with a set motion from one condition to another – the dark, rashly tuned and angry riffs and syncopation eventually give way to heroic glory while the story runs along. Skyforger‘s performance in turn reflects this mainly through choosing a thrash-based style which allows such closure to come out more freely than their own, previously darker approach to metal. Even the traditional folk instruments and melodies follow this; leading to moments where they give more space to the guitars and vice versa.

Though it may not carry as much fear, suspense or even mythos as the rest of the band’s solid discography, ‘Kurbads‘ remains a consistently good album from Skyforger. Since this marks their return to recording full records since 2003, it is a certainly well-played comeback.

7.5/10

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