Hailing from Nancy, France, female-fronted folk metallers Fenrir take the listener on quite an epic trip through Celtic and Norse myth and legend with their new album Echoes Of The Wolf. From Ireland to Scotland, to the British court of King Arthur, and to the cold lands of ancient Norway, this album is a veritable feast for the ears for fans of this genre.
Central to Fenrir’s sound are two violins, one played by vocalist Elsa Thouvenot and the other by Sophie Luporsi. There are also two guitarists, Sylvère Jandel and Florian Lagoutte, and between them there is a lovely mix of the heavy and the acoustic, and even some light, almost lute-like sections in some songs that evoke a feeling of the middle ages. In fact, listening to this album really gave me a sense of listening to travelling minstrels, sitting in a big hall, singing of tales of heroes and battles.
That atmosphere is further heightened by the content of the songs. There is a song about Macbeth, and one about Merlin. “Fenrir” refers to a gigantic wolf from Norse mythology, and “The Battle Of Stirling”, quite possibly the heaviest and strongest song on the album, is about the pivotal 13th century battle between the English and the Scottish during Scotland’s fight for independence. There’s a song about a troll, “Mama Troll” and the romance of Tristan and Iseult. It’s quite possibly one of the best mixes of folk metal themes I’ve ever come across. It’s up there with Leaves’ Eyes’ Meredead in terms of ground covered.
Musically, this is a very jaunty listen, particularly because of the dual violins, but also because it seemed to me that the tunes were directly inspired by the music of the times the songs are telling of. Again, evocatively, this is excellent, because people used to dance to music like this way back in the mists of time, and I definitely got the feeling that you could place Fenrir’s music back in the Middle Ages or the Dark Ages and they would not be that out of place at all.
I did have a couple of issues. For one thing, Elsa’s English is heavily accented, making the lyrics difficult to understand at times. Additionally, I perceived that the mix was a bit off when it came to her vocals; at times she sounded drowned out by the other instruments. Elsa was kind enough to email me the lyrics, which I really appreciated, and which helped me understand the music more.
Stand-out songs for me were, in addition to “The Battle Of Stirling” were “The Tale Of Taliesin”, which is a beautiful ballad with some nice acoustic elements. I also loved the male backing vocals on that song, sung in a “round” manner that, again, seemed to fit in perfectly with the age it was trying to evoke. Musically, I really enjoyed the heavy and galloping “Tristan And Iseult” though I found the lyrics too wordy and awkward.
Echoes Of The Wolf is a very energetic release, and at 15 tracks, it’s a bit long (though the first and last are instrumentals), and when I was done listening I felt a little exhausted because it’s so high energy. That aside, the CD is definitely worth the effort and it certainly shows the many talents of this band.