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Selvans' "Lupercalia" Is a Celebration of Italic Cults

Lupercalia

Lupercalia

How a genre is defined is a tiring argument, yet I think it will suffice to say that part of the appeal for black metal is its themes of both nature and mythology. Beyond the stereotypes, these subjects have been a theme for many bands, and Selvans accurately combines them for a style that is somehow unique, while clearly steeped in the traditions of their chosen musical genre and the Italian lands from which they hail. It is this combination that makes Selvans’ Lupercalia a potential benchmark in an arguably saturated scene where many have discarded the lessons of those who have come before them.

The aesthetic will be the first thing many notice: forest creatures wearing strange masks and playing traditional flutes, conjuring up ancient mythical spirits deep in the woodland.  What may surprise many, however, is how good it is, how well crafted each song is, and how it recalls memories of both ancient Italian folklore and earlier bands within the black metal world. Mixing the symphonic aspects in a similar way to bands like Limbonic Art, but with an approach that is akin to Drudkh and Nokturnal Mortum, fans of the genre might have been pleased with a stripped down version that did not have all the extra elements of folk instrumentation. Those ornaments though are what send this over the top, for they remind us that this music is often about getting in touch with the land and your ancestry, and this album is a fresh approach that, to my knowledge, has never been done. Even more, each flute and other foreign instrument adds to the music, embellishing a ferocious section which sends my imagination deep into a forest that my flesh has never entered. Stringed sections reek of the romanticism that has seeped into much of the genre, with classical instrumentation that would be guaranteed to sway over the biggest skeptic of such music. It would be very easy to see this band going the full folk route, and perhaps that will happen in time, but for now the majestic tremolo sweeps and the passionate and intense vocals are here to stay.

Lupercalia is an album that is truly exciting, both for its innovation and for Selvans’ ability to simply create a great song. The vocals are mostly standard, but strong, often in Italian and the kind of typical but well-done scream that makes you want to join in with one of your own. The tracks routinely reach well beyond the ten-minute mark, and each song tells a story seeped in myth and soil, adding various flutes and sounds that after many listens, still catch me completely by surprise. It is equally majestic and frightening, and something completely impossible to ignore with its blend of classical instrumentation and traditional black metal. Above all, the embellishments of the folk instruments make this a completely unique release, which alone makes it worth a listen. Sections of this will leave you completely breathless, some being full of excitement, and others simply sending a chill down your spine. It is music like this that will always make me want to return to the genre, for it is not of this physical world.

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Track List:

01) Matavitatau
02) Versipellis
03) O Clitumne!
04) Hirpi Sorani
05) Scurtchìn
06) N.A.F.H.

Written by: Patrick Bertlein
Label: Avantgarde Music (Italy) / AV269 / Digital, A5-Sized Digipak CD
Black Metal / Neoclassical / Symphonic Black Metal / World Music / Mediterranean Folk