Blood Folke were initially described as “black metal,” which is an understandable oversimplification. Their song structure relies less on virtuosity or speed, instead focusing more on a handful of chords per track while relying on dynamic changes between the guitar and violin. They have a sense of “folk” to them, though not in the way “folk rock” usually conjures up images of Donovan and Simon and Garfunkel. What Blood Folke references at various points would be much more at home next to Blood and Sun or Wardruna. There is no clear way to describe the metal melange concisely; nods to grind, death metal, heavy metal, black metal, grunge, and post-rock are all tied together across these four tracks.
What I appreciate about the band’s self-titled debut is that there is a definitive overarching tone across the album wherein no song sounds so radically different from another that you might mistake this for a compilation. However, they utilize enough facets of metal in general to present a diverse and engaging album. “Winter’s Summer” builds from violin and guitar into a full-on dirge. The vocals are crisp and reminiscent of contemporary acts like Ash Pool for the most part, though not entirely free from unintelligible grumbles and shrieks. The bridge relies on dissonance between the guitar and the violin, building off the tension of the drums, before exploding again.
“Red Cardigan” swings between a plodding riff, dropping off completely to near silence before building towards a climax. When the track kicks back in, Lauren Gaffney‘s violin performance heralds a necessary return of tension beneath the guitar as it rises and falls, moving in and out of phase; the drums veer with precision between jazz virtuosity and metal intensity, never stagnating on a single rhythmic fill. Out of all four tracks, this is by far the one that seems least concerned with genre.
What propels Blood Folke forward across their compositions is their willingness to play within a style without being beholden to a single genre classification, which is one of the major drawbacks of black metal in general. Acts are increasingly measured by how “cult” they are instead of whether or not they actually succeed at their craft. “Merzerum” is proof enough, as the song progresses from a straightforward metal track into an ambient, progressive piece—more psychedelic jazz than black-thrash. That they manage to do so without the frantic shifts of Naked City works in their favor.
The final cut, “Termination Shield,” is the most direct, where no singular element takes the lead. The violin serves more as accompaniment to the vocals, adding texture and contrast to the shouted male voice. The track holds pace from beginning to end, propelling itself forward until burning out like a torch with guitar tone and static suddenly altered, stuttering; an interesting choice to end not only the release, but the most driving track. The altered Morse-code start-and-stop approach implies not an end, but a pause. All in all, it’s a fair decision. Blood Folke definitely know their influences, but they show potential to become a much more nuanced project.
01) Winter’s Summer
02) Red Cardigan
04) Termination Shield