Mondvolland – Pestvogel EP (Self-released, 28 January 2012)
I’ve learned that internet radio can really be a blessing during a long, boring day at work. There are stations out there that specialize in literally any genre or style you can imagine. I can usually find one that suits whatever mood I’m in on any given day, and as an added bonus, I often end up discovering new bands I never heard before. Whenever I hear a song I really like, I usually stop what I’m doing to search for that band on Facebook so I can “like” them and then keep informed about what they’re up to.
This is how I came across a band called Mondvolland; once upon a time I was in a folk-metal mood (when this happens, Warrior Radio is usually my drug of choice), and I heard some excellent quality blackened folk, which turned out to be by this Dutch group.
Fast-forward to December, and I started seeing updates from the band about some new material they were recording. I asked them at that time to please let me know when they had anything finished, because I was anxious to hear it. Well as it turns out, I didn’t have to wait long, because this week I got an email from bassist/vocalist/co-founder Mickeal who told me they had just put out a press release: to give fans a taste of the new direction the band are taking, they decided to release a 3-song EP to download for free!
That EP is Pestvogel, the Dutch word for the waxwing (which explains the awesome illustration of a Bohemian Waxwing on the cover, as shown above). As I write this, I am listening to it for probably about the sixth time today. That might sound like a lot, but bear in mind the three songs are only thirteen minutes long overall.
As for that change in direction that was advertised, I am definitely hearing some differences in the band’s sound, but with a name like Mondvolland (adapted from the Dutch phrase meaning “mouth full of earth” and — according to the band — based on folklore about giants who created the hills near the municipality of Montferland in Gelderland province) they clearly couldn’t entirely turn their backs upon their blackened folk metal roots. Instead, these new songs represent both black metal and folk music, either blended together or separated.
The EP opens with the title track, which would probably best be described as Black ‘n Roll, while still maintaining some folk elements. In particular, the name itself: “Pestvogel” literally translates to “pest bird” or “plague bird”; it seems the waxwings gained this unpleasant nickname during the middle ages when they “were seen as a bad omen, even a foreboding to the black death, because […] when they occurred in great numbers, the winters were severe[; …] and more people were in bad health or died than in usual winters. Sometimes […] an outbreak of plague or other epidemic diseases [would occur] some weeks or months after the birds had [arrived, and] people soon made a connection in their minds. (source)” I can’t think of many events in history that would better serve as subject matter for either black metal or folk metal than the black plague, so a song about birds that are harbingers of the plague totally makes sense. The song definitely starts the EP out right, hooking the listener from the beginning with its black metal styled vocals with heavy rock drumming; there are also some passages here with clean vocals, sounding very much like an old folk chant melody, which further ties the sound to a Medieval European vibe.
The middle song here is called “Onzalige Bossen” which translates to “ill-fated forest” according to Google, although if I had to guess, I’d think “forest of ill-fate” would be more accurate — probably it would make sense for travelers who wander into the forest (and not the forest itself) to suffer some sort of misfortune. However, I could be completely wrong about this; perhaps the song is really speaking out against ecological disasters. I honestly don’t know. Anyway, this track eschews the folk tendencies in favor of a more pure black metal style. All the traditional elements are here, from the relentless cymbal and snare smashing to the rapid-tremolo-picked guitar parts. The raspy, screechy tone of the vocals almost seems to suggest the voice of the undead; a decaying body whose lungs have partially disintegrated, making breathing (not to mention speaking or singing) quite a laborious task. Thinking about this reanimated corpse and the hollow sound it makes, its breath surely thick with the stench of the grave, my mind wandered back to the band’s name; it occurred to me that “mouth full of earth” could also be an apt description of this particular manner of vocalization. A few minutes in, all the instruments except the drums come grinding to almost a halt; the guitars and bass start chugging out a slow and weighty doomy riff, while the drums underneath continue the same furious, breakneck pace as before. I happened to find this especially interesting, although the entire song served as a great example of icy blackness.
Finally, the third song on the EP flips the formula on its head, retaining ONLY the folk music, and none of the black OR metal. “Mooi Ann van Velp,” or “Lovely Ann from Velp,” is three minutes of nothing but acoustic guitar. It’s a very interesting piece, though, and quite skillfully played. It starts out softly and simply, somewhat in a madrigal style, but as this goes on for a short while, it slips more and more into minor or diminished keys, taking on a darker feeling. The melody also morphs into a much more metallic-sounding riff, eventually starting to resemble the tremolo-picking style that is so prevalent in black metal. Done acoustically, this highlights an interesting parallel between black metal and traditional folk music, since the sound is markedly reminiscent of styles such as would be played on an Italian mandolin or Greek bouzouki, just to name a few examples. In this way, the song ties the metal and folk worlds together quite remarkably, without directly mixing the two styles. Then, just at the end, it comes full-circle and returns briefly to the classical guitar style from the track’s intro.
These three songs, while significantly different from each other, nevertheless are bound together thematically and by certain shared elements of sound. As I mentioned, it is a very brief journey, but one that leaves this listener’s eyes and ears focused on the horizon, anxious to see what will be forthcoming! You can read the band’s press release here, and the EP can be downloaded from their download page here, or if you prefer, you can listen to the full stream first.
The band’s debut LP d’Olde Roop is available for purchase directly from the band, here.