Menhir - Buchonia review
The year 1997 saw the release of a large number of highly unusual metal albums, characterised by heavy use of keyboards, harsh vocals, catchy melodies and lyrics about nature and paganism. These demos and EPs, unknown at the time, were paving the way for a whole new genre of music: folk metal. 1997 saw the forming of Finntroll, milestone demos by bands such as Moonsorrow, Falkenbach, Einherjer, Primordial, and, of course, Cruachan. One of the least known bands that emerged in this glorious year was Menhir hailing from the heart of Germany.
With Buchonia, this band started their long journey into folk metal. And yes, ladies and gentlemen, this is one fine piece of folk metal. This is one of the rare albums that genuinely delivers the pagan feeling, the kind of feeling that a Norseman would feel after long months of work and battle, sitting around the village fire and sipping his mead, reflecting about his life. While listening to this album, your mind might wander off into green meadows, pine forests in spring, smoking longhouses on the horizon.
Menhir used the instruments very wisely on this album. The melodies are played with folk instruments such as the flute and the violin. The drumming is very calm, soothing. The distorted guitars are put into the far background, providing a stable skeleton for the songs. The singing is extremely well executed (the lyrics are sung in Old German) and harmonized: it is this that really makes the folky atmosphere emerge. But what make this album so uplifting are the synths. Sitting in the background, they offer a chilly feeling of longing and wandering. The chord progressions on this EP are mostly joyful, but every once in a while there is one that makes things sound sad and desperate.
I think the highlight of this album is "Falkenburgstein" (which means "Falconcastle Rock", probably referring to ancient pagan ruins in Germany), which is the last song. It is a six-and-a-half minute epic, combining high-pitched female vocals, low male choruses, uplifting synths and mesmerising melodies.
The sound quality is surprisingly good on Buchonia as well as the mixing. There is not much to say about the technical aspect of this album, all the instruments are used only in a basic way. This is by no means a bad thing: it gives the album a very atmospheric overall feeling.
Buchonia is humble, yet greatly empowering. I think this is what would best describe the debut album of Menhir, a band that since has progressed and evolved into a more heavy and dark folk metal band. If you like nostalgic atmospheres and pagan music, or folk metal in general then do not hesitate to give Buchonia a listen.
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