By Dr. Abner Mality

Folk metal can take a lot of different forms. Some bands are much more metal, others lean heavier on the folk aspects. And depending on what cultural tradition you're drawing inspiration from, there can also be a wide range. But are there any folk metal bands that actually sound like natives from centuries ago who just happened to grow up playing metal instruments as well as traditional ones?

Heidevolk from the Netherlands comes closer to that sound on "Velua" than anybody I've heard yet. There is something about the music here that really sounds like men of medieval Europe playing heavy metal and not just a thoroughly modern band playing at being "authentic". I thought the last Heidevolk album "Batavi" was a fantastic stab at true pagan metal, but "Velua" is quite a different beast. The pace is slower and more deliberate, for one thing, but the real secret to Heidevolk's success is how they use vocals on this album. The vocal patterns sound like they truly belong to old European folk music. Most songs here are sung with a combination of clean high male vocals and clean low male vocals. Death metal grunts and even the occasional female croon also show up, but the vast majority has a very robust "Viking" sound to it. That's not fair to Heidevolk, because these guys are coming from a Dutch tradition, but you will understand what I mean. The pace and phrasing are archaic in a good way and help this band sound like they are truly coming from the mists of history.

It's also worth noting that every tune here is a METAL tune, with plenty of guitar crunch and excellent thundering drums. No dewy-eyed ballads here. Cuts like "Winter Woede" and "De hallen van mijn vaderen" are full of power. They sing in their native tongue with the exception of the last song "Vinland", which may be the most "Viking"-like song Heidevolk has ever done. You really feel like hoisting a tankard of mead and eating wild boar after hearing that one.

I'm not sure I would say "Velua" is better than "Batavi", but it shows a different side to Heidevolk, one that is just as effective. These guys are truly the best and most honest folk metal band I know.