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Heidevolk: Batavi

I can only hope that I'm the first reviewer to compare Batavi to movies like Braveheart or Gladiator because I doubt I'll be the only one. After all, this is an album dedicated to the retelling of underdogs fighting against an imperial enemy, bent on their destruction. The title--Batavi--refers to the Batavians, a Germanic tribe forced to fight against the Roman army for control over the rule of Northwest Europe. I don't know the whole story, but interested readers may find information quickly through Wikipedia or through Tacitus's Histories. My purpose is not to give a history lesson, but this concept album certainly asks listeners to think about European history in ways that aren't always covered in school. Since the lyrics to this album are performed in Dutch, I have to rely on the band's promotional materials and internet searches for most of my information. Needless to say, several bands are exploring questions of national identity and ethnicity through albums that attempt to understand ancient cultures before Rome spread throughout the world. I'll leave it to those who know the story of the Batavi better than I do to comment on how well Heidevolk tell their story.

What I can tell you is that Batavi is a very strong release that will certainly please fans of Viking metal or pagan metal. I confess that I was a little taken aback at first by the clean vocals on this album. I've listened to so much death metal over the last few months that I'm starting to think that everybody rasps and growls. Not so Heidevolk; in fact, their vocals are not only clean, but they are sung with the cadence of a bar song, or the epic retelling of ancient history. This is the kind of music that brings to mind the songs discussed in high fantasy novels. As I listened to this album, I couldn't help but wonder how many folk melodies these guys borrow for their songwriting. Perhaps they don't, but the melodies here have a familiar quality to them. All I can say for sure is that Batavi certainly feels like an album dedicated to telling a story about a people fighting against a powerful foe in the most authentic way possible.

Aside from the vocals, the band sounds great throughout Batavi. I was especially drawn to the driving 16th note picking of the guitars on several of the tracks. Check out the opening track for a really fine example of twin-guitar harmonies and some cool vocal melodies. I really enjoyed Batavi and would certainly recommend it to fans who like strong, sometimes fast, heavy metal. I haven't followed Viking metal as closely as others, but if Batavi is in any way representative of the genre, count me as a fan.

Track Listing:
1. Een Nieuw Begin
2. De Toekomst Lonkt
3. Het Verbond Met Rome
4. Wapenbroeders
5. In Het Woud Gezworen
6. Veleda
7. Als De Dood Weer Naar Ons Lacht
8. Einde Der Zege
9. Vrijgevochten

Added: February 20th 2012
Reviewer: Carl Sederholm
Related Link: Band Website
Hits: 2268
Language: english

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