Finsterforst – Mach Der Frei (2015) – This is my first rendezvous with and experimental Viking metallers Finsterforst (not Finsterfrost as I’ve been calling them) and I’ve certainly got to say that I’m taken aback by the material offered here in Mach Der Frei. There’s a common Viking metal core, yet the music itself seems to veer off into several different directions, making lengthy cuts like the album’s opener “Schicksals End’ 14:49” more of a listening experience, than just a standalone verse/chorus number. Just listening to this piece alone confirms in my mind that Finsterforst have more than mere potential, and offer much more than mere promise. In simplest terms, it’s one of the most potent and vibrant folk metal tracks that I’ve ever heard and it sounds like they’ve encapsulated an entire epic’s worth of material into a one single piece. After that, we have the furious thunder of “Zeit Fur Hass 9:44” and the melodic majesty of the album’s title cut. I think that fans of Borknagar and Heidevolk will certainly find something to like in this monolithic folk metal piece, which even includes a light period of instrumental reflection, like something one might expect from a progressive rock band. But you won’t be able to deny that it works and far better than you’d ever imagined. “Reise Zum… 5:33” slows things down a little for a more metaphysical experience, as the album’s closer and band moniker “23:54” give us nearly twenty minutes of incredible instrumentation and cements itself as one of the most progressive folk metal offerings I’ve ever heard. This is even better than material I’ve heard from larger bands like Borknagar, Enslaved and Tyr, making Finsterforst a literal force to be reckoned with. I’m not the biggest fan of this kind of Viking folk metal, but I’ve certainly enjoyed every offering on this release and I truly hope to hear more in the future. I’m not even sure if they’ll be able to top this seemingly grandiose performance, and it very well might be true that Mach Der Frei is my personal favorite folk metal album of the year. That remains to be seen, but for now it’s safe to say that fans of Viking and folk metal absolutely cannot go wrong with this masterpiece.
(8 Tracks, 73:00)