Krampus – Kronos’ Heritage (Self-released, 24 August 2011)
Good afternoon, readers. So how is your day going so far? Mine’s almost over, but still it seems to be dragging on far too long. I could sure use a break, and I’d be willing to bet you feel the same. I’ve decided to take a folk-metal break, care to join me?
Amazingly, just a few short years ago I had no idea that there existed such a thing as folk metal. I’ve been a long-time fan of the orchestral and symphonic stuff that sometimes gets incorporated into black or power metal, and any other music that brings together unexpected juxtapositions of style or instrumentation, but for whatever reason, I’d just never really been exposed to the folkier stuff. Once I did discover it, though, I instantly was knocked off my feet, and ever since then I just can’t get enough.
Today I’m taking a quick look back at the EP Kronos’ Heritage, released last summer by the Udinesi octet Krampus. Just a quick look, though, because the EP is only three songs, clocking in around twelve minutes. Following that, I’ll also be glancing ahead, because right now this troop of Italians is busy laboring on their forthcoming debut release for Noise Art Records, which is due out late this year.
The Krampus, as I understand it, is a scary monster with goat-like features, somewhat like a satyr, which originally came from the pagan folklore of the pre-Christian Alpine lands, but nowadays is thought of as the Christmas demon, serving as a counterpart to Saint Nicholas in many central European countries, and coming around to deal with the naughty children who don’t deserve any gifts. Similarly, the band that shares its name with this creature seems to be intent on punishing those who have misbehaved, except in a metaphoric sense: here, the “children” represent all of mankind, and the “misdeeds” for which we are to be reprimanded involve polluting and destroying the planet on which we live.
This EP in particular takes a look at the way people have become so dependent on technology and material possessions, which the band feels has become so harmful to nature and the environment, that we need to change our ways before it’s too late. Over the course of these songs, they imagine an apocalyptic future (the beginnings of which are depicted on the album cover) in which nature strikes back, retaking the planet from the grips of humanity.
The song “Kronos’ Heritage” starts things off by depicting a bleak view of how things stand currently. It references society’s ultra-consumerism by mentioning “all the junk” we’re led to believe we need to possess, and how all this materialism and push for convenience at any cost is poisoning the earth on which we live. The song tells us to remember we are “just guests” here, echoing a sentiment that I’ve seen frequently in the writings of Native Americans (as well as Native peoples and other traditional cultures from all over the world, I would imagine). Furthermore, the lyrics also seem to be looking at the world from the perspective of our descendents, as they wonder what it might have been like to live in a time before the sky was always grey. This point is further reinforced by the imagery in the title: by destroying everything around us and leaving an unhealthy environment for future generations, we are no better than the titular ancient deity (also spelled Cronus, or Κρόνος in Greek) who famously decided to eat all of his children.
One thing I have always enjoyed about folk-metal is, as I mentioned earlier, the juxtaposition between two very different sounds: the old-fashioned, acoustic folk instruments, set against the hard, loud, distorted metal band, often accompanied by black or death metal vocal styles. In this song, Krampus seems to choose to take this juxtaposition one step further, because on top of the metal background and the death growl vocals, in addition to the violins and flutes, there is also a chorus which uses a clean singing style and appears to have been auto-tuned. I am guessing that this was done to produce an unnatural-sounding voice, as yet another example of the way technology is overtaking all that is good in the world. Whatever the intention, I have never been a fan of the way auto-tuned vocals sound, but it only occurs in the chorus of this particular song.
Next, “Aftermath” discusses the what the world looks like once the world has fought back and won. It envisions “revenge, earth wind and fire against your technology,” which is something that hits pretty close to home considering the current debates over global warming and climate change. If the creations of mankind are being destroyed by disasters such as hurricanes and tsunami activity, which might in turn be brought on (or at least made more frequent or severe) by the activities of man, I suppose one could argue that we are inviting this type of ruination upon ourselves? The vocals here are particularly harsh while describing the annhilation of people, but at the same time, the music includes more violins and bagpipes, as well as what sound like pan-flutes, layering some particularly lovely melodies on top of the venomous undercurrents. I was particularly struck by the phrase “phagocithyzed by the earth,” at least once I looked it up and learned that a phagocyte is a macro-cell that ingests and destroys bacteria and foreign particles.
Finally, “My Siege” uses references to battling “an enemy with my own banners,” which sounds like a metaphor for fighting and resisting the ways of other people in society — in the context of the rest of the songs here, my mind is drawn back to that cover art, and the image of the piper who appears to be standing at the forefront of the army of plants and vines. I am imagining that this piper represents the band (or anyone else who feels the same way), leading the charge against technology and the evils being inflicted upon the environment.
Kronos’ Heritage is currently available for purchase directly from the band in their webshop.
Furthermore, as I mentioned earlier, the band is currently working on recording a new album. They have just recently put out a second edition of their studio diary from Black Mirror Studios (in their hometown of Udine), in which they are working on tracking the guitars. That video, as well as the preceding entry in the diary, can be seen below.