Monday, July 11, 2011
Live Album Review: Tumulus - Live Balkan Path
Artist: Tumulus (Russia)
Album Title: Live Balkan Path
Record Label: Wroth Emitter (Russia)
Purchased From: Red Stream (I think)
I'm not that big on live albums, generally. There are a few I've enjoyed (Kroda's Live In Lemberg and Negură Bunget's Focul viu, for example), but for the most part I can take them or leave them. Originally I wasn't very interested in Live Balkan Path by Russian progressive folk metal band Tumulus, but then I actually heard some samples from the album and was impressed with both the sound quality of the recording and how well the talented band's magic works in a live setting.
Live Balkan Path was recorded in a club in Bulgaria. There's some stage banter, none of which I can understand, but the band doesn't waste much time tearing through its impressive 12-song (and 1 intro) setlist. There are classic Tumulus originals like "Kolo Opletaya," "Yavir," and "Sredokresie," a previous-unreleased track called "Vnegda" (which would later appear in studio form on the band's 2010 full-length Vedai, which I also plan to review sometime soon), and a few covers. The band's cover of Bathory's "Gods of Thunder of Wind and of Rain" is okay --I can take it or leave it-- but of particular interest is their cover of Scald's "In the Open Sea." Scald is, of course, the excellent cult doom metal band that released their sole album, The Will of the Gods Is Great Power, in the mid-90's, before the tragic death of their vocalist ended the band. Tumulus is what Scald became, and two members of Scald remain in Tumulus to this day. Anyway, it is great to hear "In the Open Sea," and even though vocalist Kuchma has a different sound than Agyl did, he still does a great job with the song. The third cover is "Within the Soul of Autumn," originally by Bulgarian band Korozy, and I thought it was nice that the band paid tribute to their hosts with this cover. They ended up later recording a studio version for their next EP.
I gained more respect for Tumulus after hearing this album because their music tends to be pretty progressive and, I would imagine, not easy to duplicate live. Yet every member of the band does an impressive job here. Kuchma doesn't attempt all the high notes from the studio versions of these songs, or else doesn't hold them like he does on the albums, but he exhibits great voice control. His voice is interesting... it's not a power metal voice. It's not quite a folk-style voice. I'm not sure who I can compare his voice to, but he sounds great. Then there's the lead guitarist, Kurbat, who started out as the drummer of the band before filling the guitarist spot after their debut, Winter Wood. He's a heck of a guitarist, and he works well with bassist Velingor, drummer Ottar (both previously of Scald), and now-departed keyboard player Vigdis. The band sounds like they're having a lot of fun sharing the stage together, and the recording quality is great because nobody drowns anyone else out. In some ways, the instruments have a better tone than they did on the previous full-length, Sredokresie, particularly the drums.
Normally, I would never recommend a person start with a live album when exploring the work of a band they don't have any previous exposure to, but I wouldn't hold that same caveat for Live Balkan Path. Though I prefer the studio versions for most of these songs, Tumulus does an impressive job replicating them in a live setting. Their upbeat style of progressive folk metal may not have as wide an appeal as, say, Arkona, but fans of the genre who are looking for something unique should give this highly talented and underrated group from Yaroslavl a try.