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'Mach Dich Frei'
(Napalm Records)
Release Date: 2nd February 2015

steve goldby


Finsterforst were formed in 2004 and 'Mach Dich Frei' is their fourth full-length studio album. Their discography also includes one EP and one compilation album.

They hail from Schwarzwald, Baden-Württemberg, Germany and their lyrical themes deal with nature, German myths and fantasy worlds. Finsterforst translates to "dark forest" and is a reference to Schwarzwald ("black forest"), a wooded mountain range in the band's home state.

Black Forest Metal. Let's stick to that because they refer to themselves as folk Metal but I have to dispute that claim as although they use prominent accordion melodies, tin whistles and an oboe, the sound is far too Metal guitar heavy to be true folk Metal. This is not a criticism at all because this is an incredibly good album; it just isn't folk Metal. It needs more hurdy-gurdy to be true folk Metal.

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What it is is totally unique. Well how many Black Forest Metal bands can you think of? And at this point I should point out that I am absolutely omitting any wisecracks about gateaux from this review.

Germany's Black Forest is marked by mystical landscapes, its spirit rules the southwestern German souls and its wealth of brute power, beauty and mightiness is captured perfectly within the tracks on 'Mach Dich Frei' (make yourself free). Atmosphere is the watchword here and this album has a magic that will transport you to a different time and place, a place where the trees come to life and the mountains call your name.

But apart from the incredible music, the first thing that struck me was that the band look like a group of coal miners on their way home from a shift down the pit on the promo shots I was sent which had me wondering; I wonder whether Arthur Scargill or Joe Gormley ever learnt to play the hurdy-gurdy?


The eight tracks on 'Mach Dich Frei' are all completely different in length, from opener 'Abfahrt' (departure) at just less than a minute to the album closer and the band's signature track, 'Finsterforst', which weighs in at a mighty twenty-four minutes. There's something indescribable that I like very much about a band bringing out their signature track on their fourth album.

'Schicksals End' (fate's end) is just under fifteen minutes, while 'Im Auge Des Sturms' (the eye of the storm) clocks in at less than two minutes and it all fits together so effortlessly and seamlessly and is a truly epic listen from start to finish with penultimate track 'Reise Zum...' (travel to) being my personal favourite.

Album title track 'Mach Dich Frei' is the perfect example of why I cannot class this as a folk Metal album because its atmosphere conjures up visions of Norse imagery and Braveheart on a cruising holiday on the Rheine rather than Celtic and Saxon mythology but it matters not. Labels are for cans, not people or music and the chorus on this track is one mighty stomp.

'Zeit Für Hass' (time for hatred) is another example of why this is not folk Metal; it's just too industrial and heavy, which is a very good thing, and like the title track it has more in common musically with Rammstein than Eluveitie but don't take that as a negative - as I mentioned previously, Finsterforst are a very unique band and comparisons are unfair but you can't have your Black Forest Gateaux and eat it I'm afraid.

The clarity of sound on this album is second to none and it's an early contender for my 2015 Album Of The Year and it's one I will undoubtedly return to again and again.

Finsterforst have a whole host of gigs lined up this year, including their first ever appearance in England at the Warhorns Festival in Selby on 19th September. For a time, Selby was the leading coal mining area in the UK and featured some of the most advanced mining technology in Europe.

Es ist hart, das Aufwachsen in der Gateaux... mehr Drehleier bitte.

1. Abfahrt
2. Schicksals End
3. Zeit für Hass
4. Im Auge des Sturms
5. Mach Dich Frei!
6. Mann gegen Mensch
7. Reise zum...
8. Finsterforst


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