Do you believe in love at first sight? I do! It happened several times actually. But it has been a while since anybody blew me away so completely as the Belarussian band
What? You thought I was talking about my love life? Nooo, I wouldn’t want to swap my lovely girlfriend with anybody. It was actually her who started this new ‘crush’ by pointing me towards Irdorath’s amazing ‘performance’ at this year’s
Castlefest home edition.
Recorded at night in the forest, Irdorath totally WOWed me. And I wasn’t the only one. The whole stream exploded from all the amazed reactions: -Who are those guys!’ -‘They sound amazing!’- ‘What a cool set up!’ -‘Please bring them to Castlefest next year!’ -‘I love them’ That was the tone of the stream during their half an hour set.
A couple of lucky viewers that had already seen this impressive band on German festivals or the Dutch
festival gladly confirmed they had been as impressive live as they looked on that video. And I had only one thing on my mind: Get their albums in as fast as possible, listen to them, and introduce this amazing band to you all. Soooo, This is Irdorath!!!
Irdorath’s story also begins as a love story, with bandleaders Nadezdha and Vladimir meeting each other as students, not only to start a medieval performance group but also to become a couple. (They even married on stage, but I’ll come back to that in a later review) In 2011 the two drop their day jobs, move to Minsk, and start turning an abandoned building around to a performance theatre for historical events. Early on in the project, Anton Shnip joins in and the basis of Irdorath is formed. At the start the trio focuses on a catchy mix of typical German-style medieval music with a real dance feel, a powerful mix of rauschpfeife, bagpipe, chalumeau, and fast upbeat percussion, littered with orchestral moments and intense tender breaks in the music.
From the start it’s obvious that Irdorath don’t do subtle. The intro is as theatrical as you can expect from a medieval performance street art group. A thunderstorm opens the CD with a lone bagpipe leading us into the music. A loud musical BANG introduces a huge film score type of choir. And then we are off. Cool dance beats get your feet going immediately. A catchy bagpipe melody leads your brain into its happy state and the film choir returns for maximum impact. There are worse ways to start an album, trust me. Listen to opening track Rondo and you’re hooked. Permanently!
The second song, Scudrinka, is a Macedonian traditional dance that got the same Irdorath treatment. The acoustic drums give the song a lovely groove. Fast, powerful but really danceable. The strong sound of the bagpipes and rauschpfeifen, so typical of the German style of medieval music (think of bands like
) sticks in your brain like glue, but its the Eastern European flavour that makes this music so interesting. Where a true German-style medieval band, like Corvus Corax, can seem to be just loud and in your face, Irdorath’s music is much more diverse and dynamic.
Sure, Irdorath can sound exactly like Corvus Corax. A song like Bard’s Tale or the midtempo ‘waltz’ Saderalladon would do well on any MPS festival, but there is much more to their music. That sudden break in Scudinka for example, where suddenly the wall of sound drops down to a single beat and an exquisite eastern guitar or sitar melody. Really cool. In general, their sound is also lower than I am used to. Less ‘shrieking’ and percussionist Anton puts WAY more groove into his drumbeats than a regular German-style band would do.
With the 5th song Tourdion, the musical adventure truly starts. We leave the German medieval festivals and go to the East. Another film score type intro sets the mood, and sure, the start of the song is what you would expect, rauschpfeifen playing that all too well-known medieval tune, (with a beautiful orchestra under it by the way), but this wouldn’t be Irdorath if there wasn’t a twist. Suddenly Nadezhda, with nothing else than a simple piano, takes the whole thing down. As if
John -music was my first love- Miles
suddenly takes over. The orchestral section that follows is so powerful. This is by far the most impressive, most grand version of this medieval classic that I ever heard. This song alone proves how good Irdorath are as musicians and arrangers. Truly stunning. And they have no problem stepping it up another few notches live on stage, adding a 4-piece ‘choir’ to this 2015 live performance. How I wish I could see this being performed live myself, if only just once.
That’s the true strength in Irdorath’s music: their arrangements. The space they leave in their sound. Although they often work with two bagpipes (with rauschpfeifen attached to it in true German medieval style); powerful drums; a powerhouse of a voice; and that rich deep sound of the Slidgeridoo sometimes appearing, they are able to give their songs room to breathe. Be it in interesting musical breaks with sudden twists; clever stereo effects and well-chosen placement of the instruments in the sound; or those Eastern European influences effortlessly blending in their sound. Even in those power sections, Irdorath manages to sound ‘acoustic’ and that is what I love about them. That and the variety in ideas.
Did I mention a slidgeridoo and a powerhouse voice just now? Yep, in Ketri we hear both of them prominently for the first time. The song itself is Irdoraths interpretation of a Romani love song, and it takes the band even further away from that initial German Medieval style, deeper and deeper into Eastern Europe, even into Turkish music at some points.
In Cypridis In Vito the band uses those cool stereo effects and even some Medieval-type choral singing, before they throw out the whole musical rulebook, blending all the influences I mentioned before in one cool, typically Irdorath song.
Ad Astra is an album that is almost impossible to describe. It starts as a German-style Medieval party and ends as an Eastern European/ Arabian/Mongolian pagan folk-rock opera. The song Ad Astra is a pure treat for those who love upbeat experimental power folk music.
If you like your folk music Celtic, gentle, and peaceful you might want to tread carefully. But if you’re up for an adventure, and your record collection contains music from bands as varied as
Dead Can Dance (especially their 1990 album Aion);
Prima Nocta; Corus Corvax;
Jimmy Page and Robert Plant at the time of their No Quarter album;
Irfan (just listen to the title song Ad Astra for some beautiful typical Irfan magic),
and yes even
Ayreon (listen to those electric guitars suddenly appearing in Nupla Nu Te Lasa),
then definitely give this wonderful debut album a try. You’ll be hooked. Don’t say I didn’t warn you…
pictures and video’s: Irdorath
Irdorath – Wild (2017) review
Cliff de Booy
The second review I’m posting of
is actually their third CD called Wild. Where their first album, Ad Astra, is their ‘dance’ album, and their second album, Dreamcatcher, is their alternative-rock-meets-ethnic-folk record, this one is their most in-your-face album yet. You could say on Wild their metal side is coming out, although the band themselves prefer the term fantasy-power-folk. And I do understand that. Metal, as a term, is so limiting for the music Irdorath recorded on this album. Just as on Ad Astra (2012 ) and Dreamcatcher (2015 ) Irdorath is exploring a big part of Europe’s musical folk world again. A world that, on this record, this spans from German medieval sounds through Spanish guitar music into eastern European music. From the waves of the Caspian Sea to the vast deserts of the Mongolian steppe. If you love your music powerful, diverse, and prog metallesque, you are in for a treat.
Just as on Ad Astra, a cool, theatrical intro leads you into Irdorath’s musical world. A world that compared to Ad Astra is much wilder and darker. The biggest difference is in the drums. Where Ad Astra had a groovy dance beat, the double percussion on this album leans much more towards metal.
Take the opening track Varazheya for instance. If I didn’t know any better I would say that I hear a double bass drum there. And a super tight at that. With the strong eastern feel of the track a comparison with the Tunisian metal band
quickly comes to mind. But as I said, Irdorath’s music is even more complex, even Leaning towards prog-folk metal. And the most impressive part, just like
they manage to get that strong wild sound using acoustic instruments!!!! Really impressive, and really clever. Using the strength of the acoustic
double percussion; and the power of their bagpipes (made even louder by attaching rauschpfeifen to it as
do as well), the sound is so much more dynamic. So much clearer as well. The lack of distortion means you can hear every single note, giving the music a totally different ‘strength’ and depth of sound and power than a true metal band would. Irdoraths clever use of violin and cello arrangements throughout the CD even enhances that.
Like I said, the opening song Varazheya feels like a musical uppercut. The band sounds like a pack of wolves somewhere deep in a dark and ancient forest and not about to take prisoners. As Nadezhda sings in the end: ‘You wanna howl? Howl!‘
Zhahi-Zhazi, although slightly slower in pace, has the same intensity. Again the songtext tells you everything you need to know. Translated, the song is called horrors-horrors, and the first lines go:
Children spend the night in the woods
where the trees roam,
And someone’s eyes are watching them from the shadows.
Children watch the fire and glance into the darkness.
Who hides there?
Do I need to say more? Musically I would call Zhahi-Zhahi a strong mix between the acoustic traditional folk music of the Belarussian ethno-folk band
and the extreme power of Myrath, but in acoustic form. I would define Irdorath’s music as ethnic-progressive-power-folk-metal-played-acoustically, and Zhahi-Zhahi is the perfect example of what that sounds like. Especially the instrumental part that starts about 1:33 in this song is absolutely amazing. That is also the point the band goes way beyond the limitations of metal music. An absolute stonker of a song.
Black Flags is the last of the power folk songs that open this CD. It is also a song that will be extremely popular with our German pirate friends. A sea shanty on steroids, on mega steroids actually. And then there is that chalumeau, sounding like a church organ to give this ‘pirate’ song its own unique Irdorath twist. You cannot help but be dragged in by this ocean epos. Bring out your dead, hoist the black flag and storm the seven seas! Black flags!
The fifth track Storm is the first instrumental piece on this cd and the catchy melody played by the rauschpfeifen makes it an instant earworm. Starting out as another power folk song the arrangment quickly turns full string orchestra, proving the point that Irdorath plays soooo much more than ‘just’ metal on this cd. It transforms this power folk tune into something truly epic. Stunning stuff.
Kupala na Ivana starts a capella (although shortly) and it gives me the opportunity to go into one of Irdorath’s biggest trump cards. Nadezhda’s epic voice. It is big and it is strong. She has lungs made of steel and these big lungs are the reason she can easily hold her own against the five other bandmembers in this beautiful power ballad.
Five? Yes, Irdorath is now a 6 piece band. Besides long time members Nadezhda on vocals, bagpipe, hurdy-gurdy and rauschpfeifes; Vladimir on bagpipe, slidgeridoo, chalumeau, vocals and throat singing; and Anton Shnip on Drums, percussion and vocals, we also have Valery Priyomko on drums; Pietro Marchenko on guitar, twelve string bouzouki and vocals; and Julia Viten on violin. All equally talented and equally important in the sound of Irdorath. But the main star on Kupala na Ivana is Nadezhda. It doesn’t matter what the band throws at her: Powerful drums, the strength of the bagpipes, even a full orchestra, Nedazhda just blows them away with the power of her voice in this wonderful ballad. This song has it all. Just listen to those beautiful arrangements. Going from subtle to full power folk ballad, from a capella to full orchestra. Together with Storm, Kupala Na Ivana is one of my favourite songs on Wild.
Looking at the lyrics I wouldn’t be surprised Irdorath worked with a clear theme on Wild, and the music, indeed powerful and wild, followed out of that.
I’ll be honest, this will not be everybody’s cup of tea. And it wasn’t meant like that either. This album is a hurricane caught on a compact disc, and it wants to come out!. A musical storm hitting you right in the face! And just as I love to walk in a storm, lean against it and enjoy the beauty of mother nature at her full strength, I love this album too.
For all of you who share my love for powerful music like
Prima Nocta, Myrath,
Edvard Grieg’sHall of the Mountain King, Coppelius and, ….well.., Irdorath! Can’t wait for the next storm to come!
Picture and videos: Irdorath
Location: Middeleeuws Winschoten & Fantasy Festival (NL) – Day 2 Band/Artist: Irdorath Fantasy-Folk Band
Helen van der Jagt
Today Middeleeuws Winschoten & Fantasy Festival 2019 kicked off in the north of this country.