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Review: Pagan Reign - Tverd (Ancient Fortress)
Pagan Reign
Tverd (Ancient Fortress)

Label: Sound Age Productions
Year released: 2006
Duration: 55:51
Tracks: 4
Genre: Folk Metal

Rating: 4.5/5

Review online: December 29, 2008
Reviewed by: Brett Buckle
Readers Rating
Tverd (Ancient Fortress)

Rated 3.8/5 (76%) (10 Votes)

Folk Metal...what the fuck is Folk Metal hey? Well, Russia's Pagan Reign have a pretty good answer to that question — Tverd, or to those who prefer English, Ancient Fortress, their latest album of folk-laced metal goodness. Unlike the more public face of Folk Metal (I'm looking at you Finntroll and Korpiklaani), this is not an album full of polka humpa and festhall beer drinking tunes; this is pure Heavy Metal with some exquisite soaring folk melodies and some galloping, riotous metal riffage.

Pagan Reign sing about "Slavonic pride", but the CD booklet is written completely in Cyrillic characters so I have no idea what it says. Whatever the case may be, Tverd is full of uplifting folky passages that would stir the laziest warrior in to raising his sword for Rus'.

Tverd is a varied album, with stirring melodic odes ("Enemy at the Gate") and frantic polka laced tunes ("By Fire and Sword") that smoothly and quickly change up to more traditional metal riffs with floating melodic guitars, not completely unlike some of Maiden's melodious moments. Then, when you think you have this pegged, a mandolin (or similar medieval stringed instrument) will burst in with a few bars of plinking goodness (the traditional instruments really carry the melodies, see especially "Back to Ancient Times")! This is one of the main things that separate Tverd from Pagan Reign's earlier out put — the more traditional instruments (mostly done by keyboard it would seem) play a much larger role. The flute and mandolin(?) feature prominently in every track (see the bardic intro to "Rarog" that breaks into a furious passage of Folk Metal driven by the mandolin), and there is even an occasional bagpipe or tin whistle swooping in to capture your attention. And there is the crux of the matter — you cannot get bored listening to this album as there is always something going on. No riff outstays its welcome (and is often gone before you can say "holy shit!"), but is always coming back over the horizon as the songs rolls through. The pace of the album is perfect, and the pace within individual songs is the same — riotous full steam ahead blast beats segue into rollicking folky passages, only to be replaced by traditional metal riffs accompanied by soaring folk melodies carried by the guitars or any number of the afore-mentioned traditional instruments. The vocals are universally a harsh Black Metal rasp that suits the musical well, but I would very much have liked to have heard some clean vocals as well (something like Varggoth's cleaner pipes would be perfectly suited), but this is far from a complaint.

So, to sum it up, what Pagan Reign presents here is some thrashy, traditional metal with some Black Metal influence (notably in the vocal department), served up as sides to the folk melodies that define Tverd. This is Folk Metal in the truest sense and there is no cheesy humpa-humpa moments as even the 1-2,1-2,1-2 beats are heavy and totally metal. For fans of the genre this is a must have album — it'll spend a lot of time in your CD player, and even if you don't like folk with your metal, there is enough great metal here to make this well worth your time investigating.

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