Skyforger - Kauja Pie Saules (Paragon Records) - Back
Latvia's Skyforger have been around since the mid 90's, this album, their first full length was originally released in 1998. I have been hearing good things about this band for several years but actually tracking down one of their albums has been difficult until now. "Kauja Pie Saules" is Latvian for "The Battle of Saule," an actual mediaeval battle that was fought between pagan Balts and an order if Christian Knights, in what is now Latvia. The lyrics are all in Latvian, but this should give you a good idea of what these guys are all about.

"Kauja Pie Saules" is raw pagan/folk metal that borders on straight up Black Metal at times. The album starts off with clean vocals chanted over a simple acoustic folk piece; this intro is a good example of the use of folk instruments on this album. The folk instruments tend to be relegated to song intros and spot duty in the middle of songs, serving more as a way to accent the music than a fully integrated aspect of the band. Personally, I think that this album could have benefited from the folk elements being more prominent. Outside of the folk element, the music is most closely related to black metal, being mainly fast with raspy vocals. "Kauja Pie Saules" is a well-written album and makes use of tempo changes as well as the aforementioned folk elements to create a good deal of atmosphere and an epic feel. From a production standpoint this album leaves something to be desired. While not horrible sounding, the album is just too raw for me and sounds somewhat flat and muddy.

Skyforger have progressed since this release, and on 2003's "Thunderforge" album they demonstrate a more refined sound; skillfully integrating the folk elements into their songs, adding more variety to the vocals and vastly improving the production. Having said that, "Kauja Pie Saules" does have its charm and is quite an enjoyable listen. I would recommend this album to fans of raw black metal more than folk metal fans. People who are more interested in the folk aspect of the band would be better served by checking out the "Thunderforge" album.

Rating:
80

Reviewed By: Garett F.