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Wow, one a week… hah! So, it’s been some months now since I gave this any attention. I do think about writing reviews for most everything I listen to, I just don’t have time to do posts like I want to (with links and youtube vids and such). So, I’ll just have to add that stuff in later or something.
Anyway, today I’m going to write a little bit about an album my sister got while she was in Lithuania this past summer. Before she left, I didn’t really have much music from Lithuania, but I knew of Altorių Šešėliai and Žalvarinis. I had one album from the former — which is rather heavy, almost too much for my tastes — and had heard a few samples from the latter. I figured there was probably a bigger metal scene than I really knew about, or at least a growing one. I mentioned a few bands from the Baltic states if she had time to hit a music shop… Metsatöll from Estonia and Skyforger from Latvia, plus the aforementioned Lithuanian bands.
Upon her return, she had all sorts of gifts… textiles, amber, kitchen utensils, recipies for cold beet soup, pictures, stories, and so on. She didn’t have any music, though… which was fine, she went there to teach English, after all, not to support my eclectic music habit! However, for my birthday, she did surprise me with a couple CDs she had picked up… thanks for holding off, Chris, I really was surprised. She got me Folk ‘n’ Rock from Žalvarinis and Gyvybės Medis from Obtest.
I’ll focus on the latter here. I had actually downloaded Gyvybės Medis at some point, but hadn’t really given it a good listen. First, as much as I hate translating band names and album names, I will mention that “Gyvybės Medis” means tree of life, which could be cognate to Yggdrasil… the Norse tree of life. The Lithuanian Wikipedia article seems to relate it more to the Kabbalah Tree of Life, but it could just be a link error, as other languages link to the Tree of Life disambiguation page or even the Biblical Tree of Life. That could suggest a folk or even Viking tint to the music, but I don’t think I would classify it as such. It’s not even remotely Viking, does have a very slight folk feel in parts, but it’s mostly heavy metal with a big dose of punk. That would seem to describe power metal, but this doesn’t sound powerish or cheesy… not that I understand a word of it. Most places classify it as pagan metal or black metal, which in my experience is much folkier, plus the vocals are all clean. I’m sure the lyrics are about old traditions and such (note the tree of life connection), and perhaps it is reminicent of some of Glittertind‘s punk tracks, but I wouldn’t otherwise compare Obtest and Glittertind. In my first ten listens or so (left it in the car CD player for a couple weeks), I was thinking it reminded me most of Stam1na and The Transplants (the track Vedlys in particular, but I’m still not convinced The Transplants is the band I’m thinking of).
Overall, the album starts very strong, the first five tracks are all quite nice, and Ažuolas at #6 is outstanding, probably my top pick. It closes with a couple slightly weaker tracks with the excellent and most punk-sounding track in between at #8 – Tai Ne Pabaiga. This is definitely a strong album, and grows on me a little each time I listen to it. If you like Stam1na or Glittertind, I think you would find something you’ll like here. If you like folk metal, you will probably like it, just know it’s not incredibly folked up. If you really are only interested in pagan black metal, I can’t say this would be a perfect fit… perhaps if you understand Lithuanian, or if you don’t absolutely have to have blackened vocals or a depressive atmosphere. In other words, give it a try!