2011 was the year Italian folk metalers Krampus announced their presence with two impressive and promising EPs, this year they have set themselves at the fore of the genre with their debut album Survival of the Fittest. Eight strong, the band has built on their early promise with a release which is refreshing and vibrant whilst being unafraid to be adventurous and eclectic without pushing itself outside the set walls of folk metal. It is a powerful and thoughtful album which growls like a bear at times and in others serenades like a burning sunset for a varied and absorbing adventure.
As mentioned the 2009 formed band first drew attention with the release of their debut EP Shadows of Our Times in March of last year. Alongside their shows it drew a strong view in their direction, but it was with the following Kronos’ Heritage EP that summer that the band really ignited the imagination and acclaim for their creative invention. With major festival appearances also under their belt this looks like the moment things truly accelerate for Krampus.
The album follows on from the earlier releases with the octet expanding and exploring their aggressive and melodic sound. The use of traditional instruments like flutes, whistles, violins, and the Irish Bouzouki is mesmeric whilst the driving powerful riffs and combative intensity enflames the appetite giving extra thrust to the forceful themes of humanity and social issues within the modern world. The opening Arise (The Day Of Reckoning) brings a gentle and shimmering intro to proceedings which builds with a fanfare of energy to annouce the first full track Beast Within. It starts off with a raucous eagerness and electro rampancy before lighting the sesnses with its folk weaponry. The vocals of frontman Filippo are grizzled and venomous, offering a riled spite across the near brutal assault. The melodic invention though tempers things to make for a bruising and compelling feast for the ear which is unsettling yet full of heated infection.
The following Unspoken continues the elevated energies whilst sending one onto the wrong foot initially with impressive but unexpected clean vocals from Filippo. This adds a surprising and different aspect to the sound and continues the Krampus skill of standing aside of most other bands without diminishing their core intent. Once the vocal mix of harsh and smooth settle within the ear it is an appealing and thrilling addition across the album.
Tracks like Rebirth with its Celtic breath and the frenetic Aftermath grab the senses for a full and enthused feast of melodic invention within a powerful intrusion. To be honest the songs and their structures are not experimental or remarkably different from othe bands, the likes of Korpiklaani and Amorphis to name two similarly armed, but there is something different and engaging to Krampus which is almost indefineable but certainly enchants and stirs the spirit more. The guitars rage with every atom they can muster whilst the keys consume and stimulate the senses with an irresistible and heated embrace. Combined with the insatiable rhythms and magnetic violin, whistles, and flutes etc, it only ignites the strongest fires.
The highlight of the album comes with The Dance Of Lies, a track which flirts wantonly with the ear whilst bullying the senses with spiteful bass lines and badgering rhythms. The heart of the song is melodic though and offers a feast of cute and inspired colourful flourishing sounds which only leave warmth and addition in their wake.
With furthersongs like Shadows Of Our Time and Tears Of Stone continuing to bring the fullest pleasure, the album is a dynamic slab of folk metal brought with imagination and invention. Krampus still feel like a band evolving which only inspires an even greater anticipation ahead for what the Italians will unleash, but right now Survival of the Fittest is a release bringing the beginning of another dimension to folk metal.
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