Sunday, September 21, 2008

Maxi-Single Review: Tumulus - "Кочевонов Пляс"

Artist: Tumulus (Russia)
Album Title: Кочевонов Пляс
Label: Wroth Emitter (Russia)
Released: 2008

Progressive folk metal band Tumulus was formed out of the ashes of Scald, the cult, Viking-themed epic doom metal band that sadly ended with the death of vocalist Agyl in 1997. Rather than continue the band without him, the band was re-formed as Tumulus and began a change in musical and lyrical direction. Since then, the band has released a few demos, two great full-length albums, and a live album that is actually worth listening to (I'm not generally a fan of live albums). After the release of the live album, the band was quiet for a while, working on the much-delayed maxi-single "Kochevonov Plyas," which was finally released earlier this year.

To be honest, this isn't much new material considering how long we've been waiting. The centerpiece of this EP is the new single "Kochevonov Plyas," which is preceded by an instrumental introduction. Then, following the single, they include a lovely traditional song --the title of which translates into "As There Was A Morning Early"--, a cover of black metal band Korozy (which appeared in live form on their Live Balkan Path release) called "Within the Soul of Autumn," and a new version of "Tam, gde zhili sviristeli" from their 2004 album Winter Wood. That's five tracks at about 23 minutes. It also includes a video of "Yavir," one of my favorite songs from Winter Wood. However, the new material here is of high quality and Tumulus fans should definitely check it out.

The first thing I noticed is that Yulia "Vigdis" Korolyova is no longer playing keyboards for the band. She has been replaced by keyboard- and balalaika player Al'virius. The rest of the band --vocalist and flute- and tambourine player Kuchma, guitarist Kurbat, bass player Velingor, and drummer Ottar-- remains the same as on the last few releases, and their experience playing together has resulted in a tight sound. The band sounds so good that I really wish this were a full-length album. The title track is absolutely brilliant, one of the very best Tumulus songs yet. The sound of balalaika, vargan (Jew's harp), and violin can be heard on this song, as well as multiple sets of vocals at one point in the track. Does Kuchma need any help with vocals? Of course not. He sounds awesome as usual on this release. However, the extra vocals sound great. I'm not sure who does them, as the credits are not clear.

The third track, "As There Was A Morning Early," is, as I said before, a lovely traditional song arranged by the band. I don't think Kuchma does the male vocals on this. It may be Eugeny Vorobyov from fellow Russian folk metal band Smuta. The female vocals are by former keyboard player Vigdis, who does a fine job, though her voice is much quieter. It would be nice if there were six or seven more new tracks like this, but in this case Tumulus chose quality over quantity, I suppose. Hopefully they won't make us wait too long for a new album.

The last two tracks, "Within the Soul of Autumn" and "Tam, gde zhili sviristeli" should be familiar to Tumulus fans as they have both been recorded by the band before. I believe Velingor does the harsh vocals on "Within the Soul of Autumn," and Kuchma does a fine performance with the clean vocals, as he did in the live recording. The violin sounds very nice as well. "Tam, gde zhili sviristeli" is a classic Tumulus song, and while I'm not sure this version really adds anything to the song, it's still welcome to my ears.

Tumulus continues to be a great band, though they will not appeal to all pagan metal fans. Their progressive sound and "happy"-sounding folk melodies may cause some listeners to dismiss them, but they are really a fine band that should be given more attention. This is a short but sweet EP, and it makes me excited about what is yet to come from this folk metal band from Yaroslavl.

[Note: As a thoughtful bonus, my copy of the CD came with three 2008-2009 mini-calendars (the size of credit cards) with a full-color band photo on one side of each. I can't guarantee that your copy will have arrived with those intact, due to the common practice of CD's being distributed without cases to underground metal stores in order to save money on shipping, but I thought it was nice and worth mentioning.]

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