Heathen Foray

The Passage

Written by: EW on 13/05/2009 00:12:32

According to the blurb, Heathen Foray are the most well-known pagan metal band going in Austria, which can either be interpreted as a sign of weakness against the Alpine country or a glowing tribute to HF in the throes of their debut album's release. Hopefully this review will set the record straight on this record label claim.

With such a band name, and the fact not lost on me it is taken from a great Falkenbach song, HF want to play heathenish pagan metal but end up producing a sound much closer to recent Amon Amarth material, from the melodic lead solos to the hoarse growl of Johan Hegg-soundalike Robert Schroll. Heathen Foray's proximity to the popular Swedish Vikings is most commonly found in many of the choruses building "The Passage" where widdly-widdly chord progressions rise and expand to suit the meaty bellow of Schroll with hooks aplenty and a mild sense of grandeur in their, err, passages. Infact, 'widdly-widdly' was the technical word I used in my notes to describe many of the guitar flourishes present in songs like "Chants" in that they move around the guitar like a hyperactive button pusher but all too often sound weak and impotent, especially in comparison to the blood 'n' guts of primary influencers Amon Amarth.

This inevitably leads to other issues I have with "The Passage". While allowances will have to be made for a debut album band, the fact of the matter is the performance and production do not lend themselves to an album that will 'make it'. Compared to the good (Thyrfing, Falkenbach) and the great (Bathory, Primordial) of the genre, Heathen Foray don't get close to exuding the same confidence, emotion and authority in all areas, being let down by a drumsound that appears much too machine-like for a real drummer and midi-sounding guitars that bare a similar structure to your Amon Amarths and Finntrolls but are a lot, lot less dominating and powerful. In songs like "Winterking" Heathen Foray shows glimpses of writing competent riffs but all too often this is followed by another that lets the side down, which in a genre where atmosphere and feeling are key is like trying to ski uphill. When drunk.

An edgier production is going to be vital for Heathen Foray to be noticed in a crowded pagan/Viking metal field, as well as more astute songwriting skills to hone their chops into more rewarding and devastating songs to garner attention away from some of those mentioned in this review. However, given the success the piss-poor Alestorm have found themselves, maybe these changes won't be necessary if Heathen Foray go out and don plastic parrots and eye patches. The biggest in Austria? I hope not.


Download: Winterking, Fading Tree
For The Fans Of: Alestorm, Amon Amarth, Falkenbach
Listen: Myspace

Release date 24.04.2009
Black Bards Records

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