Krampus – Shadows of Our Times (Self-released, 31 March 2011)
Happy May Day! Also, happy International Workers’ Day, for those readers lucky enough to live someplace that celebrates that holiday — I hope you’re enjoying your day off work as much as I am not enjoying my day not off work. Which is to say, quite a lot. But there’s nothing to prevent me from imagining I’m someplace else; I do it pretty much any other day, anyway!
Now, to be honest, as an American I really don’t know anything about May Day celebrations except for what I’ve seen in movies, so basically I am picturing a bunch of people in old-fashioned clothes, dancing in a circle with a bunch of ribbons tied to a pole, while playing some folk songs. There’s lots of flowers and happy shit all around, and people are celebrating springtime and nature and generally acting like a bunch of hippies. Actually, that sounds pretty fucking lame.
So naturally, in my imagined celebration, I need to make some serious modifications. First of all, any hints of happiness and dancing has got to go. That would just make me more depressed, and frankly, I’d be better off just being here at work, totally miserable. No thanks. We can swap out the folk music for some folk metal, and instead of the springtime celebration of nature… well, I don’t mind the pro-nature sentiments, but I need everyone to be all pissed-off about it, like they’re ready to smash someone’s face in.
Then it hit me — some really angry folk metal that’s rooted in pagan celebrations and violently pro-environment while being equally anti-humanity, that sounds awfully familiar. Time to break out some Krampus!
Now, you might recall a few weeks ago I had written about this band and their EP Kronos’ Heritage. At that time I also talked about the fact that they were currently in the middle of recording a new album, their debut full-length. Well that’s still going on, and it’s still scheduled to be released before the end of this year. But in the meantime, we can take another look at some of their earlier material. That’s because the blackened-death-folk collective known as Krampus released not one, but two EPs last year. Today I’ve decided to listen to the earlier of the two, which is titled Shadows of Our Times.
The record opens with a mostly-instrumental introductory track called “Echoes from the Ancients” that combines folky flutes and pipes, with some synthesized orchestral stuff, leading me to think that the songs here will be built on the juxtaposition between natural acoustic instruments and artificial technologically-enhanced sounds. However, that turns out not to be the case for the most part. The majority of the material here uses a driving backbeat of drums and power-chord guitars; fleshed out with venomous, snarled, deathcore-esque vocals; and accented with flutes, bagpipes, accordions, and violins, or some combination of any or all of these.
Very little clean singing is to be found here; one brief example is the chorus of “Tears of Stone” which features just a line or two of male singing (with the interesting addition of some angelic female choir vocals hovering on top). In this same song, we also have a definite highlight in the violin fill/solo that immediately precedes the second chorus part. Almost as though to balance out the cleanness here, the next track, “The Rocks of Verden” contains probably the most brutal vocals of any throughout these songs, as well as some of the more death metal-inspired chugging and riffing. The tinkly music box sounds that open “Witches’ Lullaby” serve as a nod to the second half of the title, but don’t let yourself be fooled: this song also serves up some nice fast and brutal metal!
I’d have to say my favorite of this bunch is the final track, “Wooden Memories” — this is a pretty upbeat number, centering around a traditional-sounding pagan/folk melody that is traded back and forth between the violin, bagpipes, accordion, and flute, which all seem to attack the tune with an equal fervor. Unfortunately, Shadows of Our Times has been sold out for quite some time now, or else I’d urge you to run off and find yourself a copy, but thankfully the band’s management company (Team All About the Music) has been kind enough to upload all of the songs to Youtube, so you can at least listen to the whole thing! I’ve embedded “Wooden Memories” below, but I’ve also included a link to each of the other songs on the EP. And don’t forget, the CD of Kronos’ Heritage is still available from Krampus’s webshop!
- Echoes from the Ancients
- Shadows of Our Times
- Tears of Stone
- The Rocks of Verden
- Witch’s Lullaby
- Wooden Memories