Saturday, August 12, 2006

The Swiss Family ... Koppigen ...

Excelsis is Helvetic Folk Power Metal from Switzerland. I don't know what that means. What I do know is I like it. As I mentioned in my previous post, I discovered Excelsis via the bonus track on Iron Savior's "Unification" album. They won a battle of the bands contest hosted by RockHard during Iron Savior's Atlantis Falling Tour. I did my darnedess to find their album(s) only to find (at the time) no real website or any information. I sorta gave up for a number of years, until whence upon listening to "Unification" for the umpteenth time last year, I attempted to browse again and lo and behold, I stumbled upon their website (and after translating via google) I discovered they were still alive and 4 albums strong. The albums being independently produced due to a lack of a label. That's when I started getting giddy and at the same time stymed. How do I go about acquiring (all) these albums. I fired off an email to the bands management inquiring about the availability and price of all 4 albums. They were all still available for the low price of 50 euro's (about 20 bucks each Canadian and that is including shipping) That's cheaper per disc than what I usually spend in store for imports! So's I was like, alright! I sent off a money order and about 3 months later all 4 cd's were in my hand! Heck they continue to email updates to their tours, unfortunately they only play oversea's or else I'd sooooo be there.... Anywho ....

The album I'll be examining today is their 2nd release "Kurt Of Koppigen", this is the album that includes the track "Dragonslayer" featured as Iron Savior's bonus track. This is a concept album inspired by local author Jeremias Gotthelf (Albert Bitzius) who wrote realistic stories of Bernese village life (Area of Switzerland where the band is from). It must cool to be able to grow up around so much history. If I were to do a concept album of my hometown, it'd have to be about Alexander Graham Bell or Wayne Gretzky.

As with pretty much all of Excelsis's albums it starts with a spoken/narrative intro before we are served with "Before The Storm" which is a catchy melodic piece. The whole album jumps between melodic and folky to straight out power metal and the band blends them nicely. That brings me nicely to the title track "Kurt Of Koppigen" which is great example of the power folk metal Excelsis excels at.

We are also delivered some beautiful ballads such as "GrimHilde" and "Song Of Agnes". Both are folk like power ballads and are quite moving. They also are good at fun catchy anthemic songs like "Distant Sky Or The Wild Hunt" and "The Lost Chapter". These are hooky and memorable. Now if you take those last couple songs and add some epicness and powerful acappella male chorus's you'll end up with "Ambush In Langenthal" as well as the album closer "Baphomet's Oath Or Just A Dream". "Baphomet's ... " I would say is my favourite track as it is epic (over 10 min.) with some fine metal riffing making it dark and heavy as well as almost death metal like vocals. A very powerful tune. "Dragonslayer" is up there too as a fave track. It has a great guitar riff and atmospheric keyboards bringing the whole package together and with Munggu's (Mario Beyeler) vocals creates a mood of a time long past. But since "Dragonslayer" is my favourite track on Iron Savior's album, I'll give the title to "Baphomet's Oath ...".

Speaking of Munggu, his vocals are nice, but sometimes sound a bit muffled and strained. I think in part to poor production, but also in part to not much range. I find when he sings more gruffly and lower they are fantastic and unique (his accent is quite pronounced and adds some flavour). But that's just a little critique to a fine album. "Kurt Of Koppigen" as a whole feels like a soundtrack to a cool movie, sprawling and epic with a lot of moods. A fine example of great songwriting and musicianship, now if only they can get better distribution ....


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