The last review I’m going to upload now is actually
second album, Dreamcatcher, released in 2015. Why do I post this one last then and not second ?? Well, I want to end this introduction of Irdorath’s music with a bang and this, for me personally, is their best album, even though I am now comparing two great records with an A+ album.
Dreamcatcher was released in 2015, after Piotr Marchenko (guitar, twelve string bouzouki), Anastacia Filipenko (violin, cello), and Alexandra Aleksiuk (Violin and cello) joined Irdorath in 2014. The record is the logical bridge between the medieval dance folk Irdorath played on Ad Astra and the fantasy power folk they played on their last album Wild. It is more easily accessible then Wild, an album that might be a bit too ‘powerful’ for some of our readers. It also ticks about every box you could tick for me personally, making Dreamcatcher one of the best records I heard in a loooong time, but let’s stop chatting about it, let’s just dive into Irdorath’s musical world one more time.
Where the CD Wild starts as a full-force hurricane that hits you without warning,
the title song on Dreamcatcher starts much more gently. A lovely alternative pop-folk song. Cool mouth harp, percussion with a smooth groove, and a beautiful bouzouki riff building up to a very impressive instrumental start of the song. Lovely orchestra arrangements take you into this nice and catchy pop-folk ballad. A song that again proves that Irdorath knows how to write a good song. They are all catchy, well arranged, and just dotted with all the interesting twists, breaks, and influences that make good music truly stunning.
As Bas is slightly faster in rhythm, and again an interesting alternative acoustic folk-pop/rock song. I know I keep coming up with these weird descriptions in all the Irdorath reviews, but that is actually a compliment towards the band. They have such a unique own style. And it all blends together so naturally. A pagan folk hurdy-gurdy together with a slidgeridoo and a slightly Spanish sounding guitar to start the song? Sure, no problem. A bit of melodic rap to continue with? Yes, why not. A bit of an Arabic feel combined with a slidgeridoo? In the Irdorath world, sure, and the result is catchy as hell.
Tam Nikto is the first of two beautiful ballads, showcasing Nadezhda’s powerful voice for the first time but also Anastacia on cello. I love how those two blend together. the warmth and power of Nadezhda’s voice and the warmth of the cello. Such clever songwriting, such clever arranging, I really love this band in so many ways by now. I love, for instance, how they pick up the speed halfway through Tam Nikto and make this song into a real grand musical adventure. This is songwriting at its very best. Forget about labels and names and styles. This is just 6:00 minutes of beautiful, well-composed music everybody – and I do mean everybody – should hear.
The same goes for Kryly, the second stunning ballad on Dreamcatcher. I’ve been in love with this song since the first time I heard it. Even without knowing what it is about (my Belarussian is a bit rusty) I could just feel how much this song means to Nadezhda. The intent is just pouring out of her with every single note she hits. With the lyrics it gets even better for me. Nadezhda writes most of the lyrics for Irdorath and these must have been one very close to her heart. A song that so deserves to be a true classic pop song.
But, there are more classic moments on Dreamcatcher. Take tracks six and seven, simply called Wedding Theme 1 and Wedding Theme 2. Well…, these were actually composed by Vladimir and Nadezhda for their own wedding! A wedding that took place……, ON STAGE!!!
I hope you don’t mind I won’t tell you any more about these two songs than that. Just watch the video below. The intimate moment at two/third if the song says soo much more than anything I could write. (I didn’t even know you could kiss while playing bagpipe 🙂 )
After all this romance and all these ballads its time to pick up the pace a bit and get our dancing shoes on again. Tochka Otscheta is just he song for that. A lovely groovy Slidgeridoo takes you into this
-meets-Arabian-nights type of song that is both a dancing song AND a ballad. It is also the first time you clearly hear Vladimir use his Mongolian throat singing skills, adding yet another dimension to Irdorath’s diverse musical world.
And there is still more. Byu. Josť. Budu that suddenly takes you into the world of
Especially that hurdy-gurdy ‘riff’ could easily have been written by Lies Sommer or Marco van Asperen.
Nadezhda shines on vocals again here, but also Vladimir’s spoken vocals are something special. Just another highlight on a CD that already has so many. Again, the way they build up this song to its climax gives me goosebumps. Really, and not for the first time while listening to Irdorath’s music, I have to add.
Tango is a lovely way to end this CD. Another epic ballad, in English this time, building up to a lovely finale. What an A-M-A-ZING CD.
But I’m not finished yet. I have saved the best for the very, very last! I am not going to bother to write a full conclusion, because I think that conclusion is pretty obvious. Dreamcatcher is a stunning alternative pagan folk-rock CD that you just MUST have in your collection.
To finish it all off, I’m going to insert one final video in here. My favourite song on Dreamcatcher. My favourite song by Irdorath actually. Crank this up as loud as you dare and enjoy it! This is Irdorath! This is music everybody should hear! This is instant goosebumps on a disc! This is Dimna Juda! And I LOVE IT!!!!!
picture and video’s: Irdorath
Guest vocals on Dimna Juda:
Alexandra Grachovskaja from the Belarusian Nu metal/punk/folk band
Datura – Gratus et Optatus (2016)
Cliff de Booy
Anno Domini MMVI (In the year of the Lord 2006), Nynke Glazema, Tom Haage, Francesco Scafidi and Lies Sommer formed the Dutch band
Their aim was to bring authentic medieval music to life, wearing the right clothing and each playing the instruments typical of the time:
Nynke : viella* and vocals
Tom : Spanish lute, flute, shawm* and vocals
Francesco : davul*, darbukka*, tambourine, saz* and vocals
Lies : harp, hurdy-gurdy, shawm and vocals
They studied the old manuscripts on the subject: songs collected by
King Alfonso the 10th
of Castilia y Leon (1221-1284);
songs of devotion collected in the
Llibre Vermell de Montserrat;
the red book of the monastery of Montserrat around the 14th century;
and the most famous collection of them all, the
The fruit of their studies were recorded for the first time in 2012 with
Fieke van den Hurk,
and collected on a magical disk-like mirror. A ‘mirror’ they called Alpha et Omega. The songs on Alpha et Omega were partly recorded in two churches and Fieke used the acoustics in there to her full advantage, therefore giving the listener a feel for the sounds of old medieval times. When minstrels would grace the courts and castles of medieval lords and kings. When their music would fill the big halls during elaborate dinners. Where the nobility would stride elegantly in couples to the sound of the music. They strode, because hopping and dancing was for the common people. That´s how Alpha et Omega feels when you listen to it. Elegant, sophisticated and well crafted. A real view into the noble courts of the 12th to the 15th century.
In 2016 Datura visited Fieke in the studio again. From the first notes it’s clear she gave Datura a different sound on Gratus et Optatus. More direct. Where the first album was for the nobility, this ‘magical mirror’ is meant for the common people. It invites you to dance and stomp and sing along. We are not looking into the medieval world anymore. We are right in it! In the midst of it. The travelling musicians are right there in front of us, on the market square, playing their first song Bacche Bene Venies. With Bacchus, the god of wine, standing next to us, giving us another glass. Bacche Bene Venies is a cheerful uptempo drinking song, coming from the Carmina Burana, that gets us listeners going straight away. A musical party to get our skirts swirling and our feet flying off he ground.
The second song, Winder Wie Ist Nu Dein Kraft, is a ballad composed by the 13th century Bavarian minnesinger
Neidhart von Reuental
written in old German. I quote from the booklet: “He turned away from the refined ethos of courtly, romantic love and wrote in a sarcastic but quite comical manner, mostly about the lower classes.” In this case the song is about the advantages and the disadvantages of marriage. It has all the goodness of a Datura song. Beautiful harp playing by Lies Sommer, a lovely violin solo and last but not least the wonderful combination of their voices. In this case of Nynke Glazema and Francesco Scafidi. Both have really strong voices and they work so well together. One of my favourite songs on the album.
La Rosa Enflorece is just as beautiful. This time Datura visits the courts of Andaluz, in a time when the Moorish courts ruled there. Also a time of the Medieval idea of convivencia (in English coexistance), the idea that all religions can live and work together in peace. Something we ‘modern’ people could learn something from. The song indeed has an Arabic feel to it and is sung beautifully by Tom Haage. He puts so much emotion in this love song. You feel a real sense of longing for a long-lost love.
Riu Riu Chiu is a cheerful uptempo song. Here all the voices of Datura blend together so well, driven by Francesco´s cheerful percussion. The fun shawm tunes makes this song into a real crowd-pleaser.
Branle Des Chevaux is another fun dance song. In the booklet it is explained that this song should be danced in a horse-like manner. Well, you can definitely hear that in this instrumental song.
Dei Patris Unice is an a cappella song by all Datura members. Alle psallitte cum luya is also often sung a cappella by Francesco and Tom during the live shows. But in this case it’s given a beautiful intro solo by Anne Dekker on her viola da gamba*. The melody is taken over by the shawm, before the men bring out their impressive a cappella harmonies and canons. Another personal favourite!
The instrumental song Virgen Santa Maria takes us back to the Moorish courts ruling parts of 13th century Spain and Portugal for the second time, as Datura play this Galician song with Moorish style improvisations. Especially Tom’s intro on the Spanish lute is particularly lovely.
Schoonlief is a ballad based on a song found in
‘Het Antwerps Liedboek‘,
a songbook from the city of Antwerp. Now a Belgian city, it used to be part of the Netherlands in the 16th century. As Datura describe in the booklet, it is a song with cheeky lyrics. A young man from a poor family tries to conquer the heart of a young noblewoman. Not one dirty word is said…., but for those who listen the message is clear enough!
The song itself is a duet between Tom and Nynke. Again those voices blend so well together. I also have to mention the lovely intro, a duet between harp and viella. Or the interlude, another duet, this time between Anne Dekker’s viola da gamba and Tom’s flute. To end it, we get a last beautiful flute and viella solo. Datura’s best song on Gratus et Optatus!
Alas, we get no time to dream about strong handsome young men or beautiful noblewomen. The shawms shake us up for a cheerful
(a type of old French rhyme, the others being the ballade and the rondeau) called Douce Dame Jolie. I know this song in many versions, most of them instrumental. And I have to say that I really like this vocal version. Another cheerful dance song for the common people to jump on, or for the nobility to strode. Just what takes your fancy.
We keep on dancing with Zou Een Meiske Gaan Om Wijn (Should a girl go out for wine). A fast uptempo song with almost a rock feel to it. It gives a fair warning in it’s lyrics, which is explained by Datura in their booklet. Almost every song gets an extensive explanation about its history and subject, making it really interesting to read it all. I happily used a lot of that knowledge in this review.
Gatus et Optatus ends with three more songs. Two ballads, Belle Qui Tiens Ma Vie and Je Nus Hons Pris, a song written by Richard the Lionheart, ending with a last happy dance song, the Danse Moresque.
All in all Datura did way more than just record a piece of history on this CD. They really brought the old medieval songs to 21th century. The music has the same cheerfulness and energy as many a Pagan folk band we can see on the big fantasy festivals. It is as much part of our history as the old Celtic myths and music. It will make a fine musical soundtrack for a wonderful Balfolk night. And I’m sure it will appeal to those who like the classical and eastern influences of a band like
So if you see them announced, go pay them a visit. Enjoy their music, their spirit and afterwards get one of those magical silver mirrors. Or better yet, buy them both!
– Studio photo’s courtesy of Datura
– live photo courtesy of
* some explanation of the different instruments:
is a medieval violin. similar to the modern one. It has a somewhat longer and deeper body and 3 to 5 strings.
is a wooden double reed wind instrument, that ends in a flared bell, somewhat like a trumpet. It also sounds a wee bit like a trumpet. Nowadays there are often bagpipes added to the shawm to make it even stronger/louder.
are well known for making this version of the shawm popular.
is a type of big drum carried in front of the player.
is a small goblet formed drum you play with your hands. It looks like a small djembe. It originates from the middle eastern region and eastern Europe.
is a Turkish guitar that looks a bit like a lute.
viola da gamba
is a string instrument that looks a wee bit like a cello but is actually a relative of the guitar, most popular in the renaissance and the baroque era. The bow is also held differently than a cello’s. You hold it like you hold the bow of a nyckelharpa.