Suidakra- Lays From Afar (Album Review)
Album: Lays From Afar
Suidakra, despite having been around in the metal scene for quite a while, are one of the most overlooked folk metal bands. Their sound draws from both black metal (like on this album, and their other early work) and melodic death metal (which is more prominent on their later albums) and adds Celtic styled melodies and acoustic interludes. Lays From Afar is the band’s third album, and it finds them refining the sound that they had crafted on their previous full-lengths.
The amazing song "A Darksome Path".
Pretty much every song on Lays From Afar follows a similar pattern. They all consist of epic melodies that draw from several different metal genres. Folk metal is the best way to describe the music, but it’s the kind of folk metal that takes influence from black metal, power metal and melodic death metal. Parallels can be drawn with the famous folk metal band Ensiferum, but Suidakra’s melodies have a distinctively Celtic sound and the vocals are completely black metal in tone (not to mention that Lays From Afar came out before Ensiferum ever released an album). Still, they have a similar approach to folk metal. Both of these bands focus on writing folk sounding metal riffs along with softer passages rather than using an abundance of folk instruments. Because of this approach, Lays From Afar comes across as being extremely pure. It is not gimmicky or silly sounding.
The excellent title-track.
The guitars are excellent. There are a lot of cool leads, but not very many solos. The playing is a little sloppy, but this is more appealing than it is annoying. A surprisingly large amount of the riffs are memorable, and some of the songs are even driven by the excellent riffing. Unfortunately, the bass is nearly unnoticeable buried under the other instruments. It does not stand out, but Lays From Afar is hardly an album that needs it. The drums are good, but not brilliant.The harsh vocals are wrathful in the style of black metal. There are a few growls that are reminiscent of death metal, but they are few and far between. There are also various clean vocals used. They are passable, but certainly not the best clean vocals in the genre. Finally there are the keys. I’m not sure if the folk instrumentation is done by the keyboards or not. Some of it sounds like it isn’t, while some of it is questionable. Either way, there are still some cool parts done by the keys. They are not dominant in the music at all, which is typically a good thing for me.
The phenomenal "Chants of Lethe".
The Songs (Part 1)
The album kicks off on a very intense note with the brilliant “A Darksome Path”. One of the definite highlights on the album, “A Darksome Path” is both aggressive and tastefully melodic. The beautiful folk melodies at 3:38 followed by the catchy and melodic riffing are examples of what makes the entire album so great. This one has a great sense of dynamics, as there are a few softer breaks. “Chants of Lethe” comes next, and it’s a bit more laid-back and introduces the listener to the band’s clean vocalizations. Amidst a flurry of melodic and memorable riffs, the song becomes more and more intense as it progresses until it is not unlike the opener in terms of aggression at all. “The Well of Might” is a relentless number, never stopping until the beautiful slower part at the end. It’s yet another memorable highlight. After the incredible assault of the first three songs, the listener is treated to a nice little heavy ballad in “The Hidden Quest”. Here, the clean vocals are dominant along with slower guitars and light folk instrumentation. It’s quite refreshing, but not as good as the first three songs. The viciousness returns in the form of “Morrigan”, which is another fantastic tune. This is followed by the ballad, “Peregrin”. Truthfully, it’s more of an interlude than anything and does not add much to the album.
The cool song "Morrigan".
The Songs (Part 2)
“Wasted Lands” opens the second half of the album with a bang. This one has both soft and heavy (though mostly heavy parts) and features the same blackened vocals along with some brief female singing. It also has a guitar solo that is is competent and entertaining, but not amazing or anything. “Strayed in Nowhere” is similar, but not as dynamic. “Airne” is a brief instrumental, no guitars. “Lays From Afar” is a crafty piece, and the most progressive on the album. It features the use of many different vocal styles and it’s got several contrasting parts. It’s another phenomenal song courtesy of Suidakra. “Foggy Dew” closes the album out in a mellow way, as it is another acoustic song like “Peregrin”. It’s good because it actually does feel like a fitting song to close the album out.
The song "The Hidden Quest".
Most folk metal fans should find Lays From Afar to be a complete delight to listen to. It is an enchanting album, filled with great metal songwriting and Celtic undertones. I’ve mentioned the similarity to Ensiferum, and it’s certainly true that fans of them are also likely to enjoy Suidakra’s work. Fans of Cruachan, Primordial, or even Eluveitie will probably enjoy this too. Lays From Afar is a fascinating album, that’s entrancing and extremely good to listen to. It solidifies Suidakra as one of the best folk metal bands out there, along with such heavy hitters as Moonsorrow and Ensiferum. An absolutely great album!
Best songs: “A Darksome Path”, “Chants of Lethe”, “The Well of Might”, “Morrigan”, “Wasted Lands”, “Strayed in Nowhere” and “Lays from Afar”.
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Note: The videos do not seem to be working. There are not very many videos of these songs on YouTube, so I cannot really switch them out (and these are mostly from different users, so I have no idea what's going on with them today!). However, if you click on the videos you can still listen to the songs in another window/tab. Sorry about that.