UK Release Date: Monday 30th March 2015
Heidevolk, who hail from Arnhem which is the capital of the province of Gelderland in Holland, are back with their fifth album, 'Velua', which is all based around The Veluwe which are a range of mythical, beautiful woodlands in the Netherlands.
Heidevolk never went away actually; they just took some time out of the limelight to create 'Velua' and it's certainly a musical progression on their previous four offerings so we can definitely add it to the list of great albums that have been released so far this year.
They are classed as a "Pagan/Folk Metal band" and I have come to the conclusion that this is because of their lyrical themes and imagery and not their musical style.
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Heidevolk does not mean "Pagan Folk" in Dutch, contrary to popular belief. Pagan is translated to Dutch as "heiden". Heidevolk means "heath folk" or "heather folk" and like the new album, the name was inspired by the Veluwe landscape.
There's very little in the way of prominent or dominant folk instrumentation on 'Velua' which is something of a departure from their earlier albums.
What you do get is some great Metal riffery and tunes that stand out but for those unfamiliar with Heidevolk the one things that separates them from everyone else totally is that all of their lyrics are sung in Dutch. And I suspect parts of some of their songs are sang in Olde Dutch as well but I will get this confirmed when I interview guitarist Reamon later this month.
Now I believe there is no doubt at all that singing only in Dutch has held the band back in terms of commercial success. Dutch is not the most fluid language on the planet and a fair percentage of potential listeners will have avoided Heidevolk because of the language barrier.
So this is a band sticking to their guns and staying true to what they believe in rather than bowing to commercial pressures. That is true Heavy Metal style so a massive plus point to Heidevolk for that one.
Unfortunately it means that going into the depth I would like to of what theme each song contains is not possible as my Dutch is not the best. I once ordered a frikadeller in Eindhoven and ended up with a plate of egg and chips so tackling the deep complexities of Heidevolk's lyrics must wait for now.
But you know what - that is actually irrelevant because you can FEEL the themes on this album and instinctively get a handle on what the guys are projecting.
'Velua' will introduce you to a Holland that you never knew existed. In the band's words: "'Velua paints a dark picture of ghosts, goblins and brigands in order to raise a monument: anthemic folk parts, clean male vocals and gritty Metal provide the perfect soundtrack for the listener's journey to the sylvan halls of Velua!
"With Velua we have created a unique storybook that tells you the tales of the most beautiful part of nature in the Netherlands and namesake of this album, the Veluwe. It brings you the wondrous, gruesome and weird tales about murderous brigands, deceiving wraiths, cursed souls and evil-minded goblins that roam the woods at night. Along with this dark folklore it sings the praises of the undying beauty of nature and the embers of early Pagan traditions."
So to the album and opener 'Winter Woede' (Winter Rage) is also the first music video from 'Velua' and tells the story of a discarded soldier that fights to survive the harsh winter. Have a listen and a watch right here...
That video gives you a great insight into Heidevolk and their multi vocal technique, another thing that makes them stand out from the masses.
When lead singer Mark Bockting flies solo, the voice is distinct, unique and memorable and when he is joined by comrade Lars Vogel, the result is sheer power of melody that resonates with force. This is apparent throughout the album and especially on second track 'Herboren in vlammen' (Reborn In Flames) which despite its ferocious title is the most upbeat song on the album.
The time changes are excellent in 'Herboren...' and the guitar melodies are standout too. This track is bound to be a major feature of the live set that I hope to catch sometime later this year.
'Urth' (Earth) sees a violin appearing as lead on the album for the first time. It is unknown who the player is but it blends in seamlessly with the fabulous guitar solo that accompanies it and heavy riffage that kicks in just after and once again, they've got some serious live ammunition in their armoury here.
We're off to Valhalla next with an anthemic nod of the hat to that mystical place so often referred to in Metal hymns and 'De hallen van mijn vaderen' (The Halls Of My Ancestors) is a great listen, as is 'De vervloekte jacht' (The Cursed Hunt) which gallops along at a frenetic pace and introduces the listener to those murderous brigands and evil-minded goblins that we mentioned earlier.
That incredible depth of vocal is prominent here but there's a superb Maiden-esque gallop throughout that carries on into 'Het dwalende licht' (The Errant Light) which adds folky elements to a hard rocking track. That violin works so well here and gives the song extra life, depth and dimension and that guitar solo is superb.
'Drankgelag' (Drink Laughter) works in any language as boozing is the language of Heavy Metal people the world over and this is a mead sodden anthem that will bring cheer across the globe. And what a superb guitar break at the end of the track.
And then title track 'Velua' and herein lies a bit of conflict. Musically, this could easily be a Battle Metal anthem as it has all the elements in place but Heidevolk are actually singing about the magnificent and mystical woodland of their home area here.
You may get images of battle hardened warriors decapitating and slaughtering when you hear this song but this is a piece about nature and trees and forests. It's brilliant and I look forward to seeing thousands of Metal hordes punching their fists in the air at a festival this summer thinking they are praising Odin and all his glorious victories when in fact they are worshipping a tree in Holland. A magnificent track. Knuffel de boom!
There's a bit of a nautical feel to 'Een met de storm' (With A Storm), not in a sea shanty way but in a "Hell, fuck, shit, we better sail away from here fast because something bad is coming" way. You'll feel the atmosphere when you listen to it, meanwhile, 'Richting de wievenbelter' (Towards The Weird Sisters) is a pure Metal romp and even if you can't understand one word of the lyrics, you'll feel those twisted sisters coming for you in the night.
What happened In het diepst der nacht (In The Depths Of The Night) is unclear at this stage but it certainly wasn't something you'd want to get involved in whilst drinking a mead and watching the Vastenavond. This is a powerful rocker with a message but what that message is remains a mystery only revealed to its victims.
And finally, a bonus track sung in English and all about Finland, just to confuse matters even further. 'Vinland is without a doubt Battle Metal; no trees or woodlands here - this is all about invading another country and singing a Heavy Metal anthem upon arrival and the creaking of the longboats at the climax of the track gives the game away completely. There's true Viking Metal in those Dutch woodlands and it bursts out at you in 'Vinland'.
So that's that. I'm off for a frikadeller now. Or maybe a plate of egg and chips. Tot de volgende keer. Blijf Metal! Nederlands Pagan Metal!
Mark Bockting (Mark Splintervuyscht) – vocals
Reamon Bloem (Reamon Bomenbreker) – guitar
Rowan Middelwijk (Rowan Roodbaert) – bass guitar
Joost Westdijk (Joost den Vellenknotscher) – drums
Kevin Vruchtbaert - guitar
Lars Vogel (Lars Nachtbraeker)- vocals
Herboren in vlammen
De hallen van mijn vaderen
De vervloekte jacht
Het dwalende licht
Een met de storm
Richting de wievenbelter
In het diepst der nacht
Paganfest with Wintersun, Turisas
19.03.2015 DE - Ludwigsburg
20.03.2015 DE - Leipzig
21.03.2015 DE - Oberhausen
22.03.2015 NL - Tilburg
23.03.2015 DE - Hamburg
24.03.2015 CZ - Pratteln
25.03.2015 DE - Saarbrücken
26.03.2015 DE - Frankfurt
27.03.2015 DE - Munich
28.03.2015 AT - Vienna
29.03.2015 DE - Berlin
06.06.2015 CZ - Plzen / Metalfest Open Air Czechia
12.06.2015 DE - Kursdorf / Brann Open Air
13.06. - 15.06.2015 DE - Dinkelsbühl / Summerbreeze Festival
This is for the uninitiated; there's only one track from 'Velua' available online at the time of writing so to give you some more insight into the music of Heidevolk, here's two of their best tracks from previous years.
This is 'Saksenland' from the 2008 album 'Walhalla Wacht' and it's all about where Biff Byford lives. The second track is 'Bulgaris Magistralis' from 2005s 'De strijdlust is geboren'.