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Faun – “Midgard” Review

The royalty of Pagan Folk retain their throne

Faun have been around for a long time now and although their line up has seen some changes, their core sound has remained relatively unchanged. In many ways that is a great thing because they are for me personally, the pinnacle of pagan folk music. With their latest release “Midgard” they continue to enjoy their throne with a lighter album that has focuses on tight melody and beat rather than some of the more ambient soundscape elements they have done before.

After a short nature filled prologue “Fedeklied” plays with flutes, shanty like beats and jew harp whilst the beautifully serene vocals of our leading ladies grace your ears with a siren like perfection. It’s a hark back to some of the more folk like acoustic elements and “Sonnenreigen” is one of the most beautifully understated tracks of 2016. The intertwined connection of the acoustic instruments, the vocals and the ebb and flow of the track is what has always stood out in Faun. “Alba II” continues on from the first chapter of Alba from the Eden album and even when the track is fully bodied, the strings and pipes are arranged in a way that evokes fluid emotion, instead of going for the huge pub brawl electronic moments it hints at, at times. It’s also lovely to hear the entire vocal collection of Faun joining together instead of taking turns as they compliment each other so well.

“Nacht des Nordens” however does show that when the band want to jam, they know how to as the jews harp and drum machines bounce into play for a fantastic middle section of this heavily Norse-inspired track. “MacBeth” slows things down with a wonderful duet that is underpinned with lush strings, harp and drums. The strings are not new for Faun, but in this album specifically they feel more seated into the mix and song structure than ever before and it adds a more symphonic and global drama to what they do.”Gold und Seide” is a hidden gem too. If you can imagine Hobbiton was somewhere in Turkey – you’d be 80% of the way there. It’s a beautiful track that unwinds its complexity effortlessly into your ear as you dance around. It makes a great duo with the Celtic “Brandan” that is full to bursting with big pipe arrangements and strong vocals.

Taking things into a slightly darker territory “Odin” has a more sinister tone, whilst “Rabenballade” manages to be both full of life and sorrow at the same time with its shifts in tone and pace between song phases. The latter of the duo is another standout track on the album. “Lange Schatten” continues the pagan and Celtic themes with a lovely ballad which fits in with Christmas for me before we are treated to the woodwind and percussion fest of “Aufbruch” that develops into an acoustic rock number. “Alswinn” has a wonderfully slap happy beat that makes it an off beat waltzing dance off from the medieval times before “Raven” rounds off the album with one of Faun’s finest tracks to date. It’s a slow building burn that is as elegant as it is powerful.

I didn’t have any doubt but it still surprises me every single album. Faun create masterpieces of Pagan Folk and has made the genre their own in many ways. The addition of string arrangements that enhance the tracks rather than take them over is a fantastic tweak to the Faun formula and this album will stay with you long after it’s finished. If you’ve not got it on repeat of course!

Recommended Track : Gold und Seige

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