Skyforger - Kauja Pie Saules - 2006 - Paragon Records
1. Zviegtin Zviedza Kara Zirgi 2. Kauja Pie Saules 1236 3. Sencu Ozols 4. Viestarda Cina Pie Mezotnes 5. Kursi 6. Kalejs Kala Debesis 7. Kam Pusat Kara Taures 8. Kauja Garozas Sila 1287 9. Svetais Ugunskrusts
Latvian pagan metallers Skyforger have been releasing material for almost ten years, although only recently on a worldwide scale. “Kauja Pie Saules,” their first full-length, originally came out in 1998, but was re-released this year on Paragon Records. Although they’re a four-piece consisting of a guitarist/vocalist, guitarist, bassist, and drummer, various folk instruments such as bagpipes, mouth-harps, and rattle sticks turn up in a few songs to add depth to the otherwise fairly straightforward black metal formula Skyforger employ. Lyrically the band sticks to singing mostly in Latvian, although the CD’s booklet does contain helpful English translations of the lyrics for international listeners, who probably make up a good portion of Skyforger’s fanbase, as the metal scene in a country as small as Latvia cannot be too large.
As mentioned above, “Kauja Pie Saules” is essentially a pretty straightforward album. Skyforger combine standard black metal riffing, drumming, and vocals with a proud, pagan-oriented Latvian theme which is enhanced by the occasional use of a folk instrument or two. Currently the band employs a member who plays folk instruments exclusively, so it’s likely that on their later releases Skyforger’s music is a little more diverse. Fortunately, the band manages to mix things up a little with tracks like “Kam Pusat Kara Taures,” which contains a choir of clean-singing males, hand-drumming, and what sounds like some sort of woodwind instrument. This song is immediately followed by “Kauja Garozas Sila 1287,” which is probably the album’s strongest. Instead of using folk instruments sparingly during introductions or interludes, bagpipes and other woodwinds are used throughout the song to augment the melody and atmosphere. In addition, acoustic guitars and nicely places during parts of the song’s chorus to add even more of a folk-oriented sound.
While it might not sound like much to the modern listener, “Kauja Pie Saules” would have been a very good pagan metal album back in 1998, when less bands were playing the style. Putting things into that perspective, Skyforger were a relatively creative and innovative band, despite not being especially exciting. I haven’t heard any of their newer material but I am interested to see how they’ve progressed since this album’s initial release in 1998. I won’t give this album a rating since it’s a re-release and therefore doesn’t properly match up to other albums being released, but I will give a cautious recommendation to those who may be interested in music like this. A lot of listeners might opt for a more modern sound, but if you’re a fan of Taunusheim and even old Thyrfing, “Kauja Pie Saules” will probably appeal to you.
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