I constantly seek out folk metal as it is my main source of inspiration for my own projects. Falkenbachs "Asa" is no exception to the hunt and even though Folk Metal is my forte, I still judge it in a logical, structural and unbiased fashion. Black/Folk metal is a very interesting genre that is unique, powerful and easily identifiable. "Asa" displayed many key elements akin to Black/Folk metal but left a little bit more to be desired...
Traditionally, Black metal has never been about "Epic" or "Emotional" music. When you introduce folk metal into the mix this album is a perfect example of what you would get: epic chants of low to mid-range choirs mixed with soft acoustic sections and large walls of symphonic sound. I feel that typically, when you get into more atmospheric genres, the level of composition seems to fall off. Bands start to sacrifice technicality and melody for droning emotional soundscapes and atmosphere. For me, the composition in "Asa" falls a little short. Many of the same chord progressions and picking patterns are repeated throughout the album. Songs like "Bluot fuer Bluot" and "Ufirstanan" sounded like the same song at certain parts. My personal favorite was “Eweroun” - it started with an almost western sounding acoustic riff, then as the song progressed, acoustic and distorted guitars played the same thing to produce a heavy twang vibe. It was really the only memorable song on the album other than the eerie tones of "Mijn Laezt Wourd".
Judged on their own merits, every song on its own is solid; simple....but solid. Yet that’s the thing: "On their own"...When played subsequently they do not flow together well. Vratyas Vakyas jumps from extreme black metal to western epic fantasy tunes and I really think that the placement of songs could have been much better.
I also believe that he should not have bothered to include the songs "Bronzen Embrace" and "Stikke Wound". They should have been replaced with songs that actually fit the albums motif. I am all for musical diversity, but this was just plain silly. Initially, when I listened to the album straight through me was put off by its difference to Falkenbach’s previous work. In the past, when the music transitioned from a folky gentle song to a harder black metal song it would flow smoothly. On “Asa” not one song flows naturally into another and this has destroyed the Falkenbach atmosphere that I would have expected. "Asa" lost big points for lack of flow throughout the album.
"Asa" was however mixed masterfully by Tidalwave studios. Everything can be heard perfectly, even on the dirty black metal songs. The guitars are clear, which is uncommon for black metal, and the vocals are equalized at just the perfect level and don’t sound overbearing. In terms of sound quality I give the album a perfect score!
I thoroughly enjoyed this album on a personal level as it put me in a mellow and introspective state. But from a logical and musical standpoint, this album was definitely a cut below Falkenbach’s previous work, rendering it an average album at best. I would however recommend this album to seasoned Folk Metal veterans who can analyze it on a factual level.
I score this album a 66% based on Composition, atmosphere, production, and originality.
Folk it up!