Ukrainian underground metal has been thriving lately, with the considerably large volume of output from bands of the country. Bands that combine different elements of the various extreme metal subgenres fascinate me even more, and receiving Thunderkraft‘s latest album, Totentanz was definitely a welcome surprise, complete with an album artwork that reeks with the theme of war and destruction to further tease me into wanting to find out what the band offers on this release.
The album opens majestically with A Time Will Come, with a symphonic arrangement at the background that greets the listener, and leaves listener with a first impression, feeling as if one were listening to an epic band like Bal-Sagoth with the heavy orchestration. The heavy orchestration and usage of keyboards of Anna provides the music on Totentanz with a folkish sound, and is certainly a nice touch on top of aggressive music that runs above. Apart from that, the riffs that are unleashed by guitarists Sigurd and Master Alafern also follow a folk progression, and at times even remind listeners of bands like Finntroll, with their slightly blackened style of folk metal, and at the same time. In line with the huge folk metal influences that have been put into the music on Totentanz, instruments such as flutes and violins are used and these are essential as well in bringing about the folk flavour in the music, such as the flute solo on Mass Defect.
Furthermore, at times, the band’s electronic influences that have been included also shine prominently, with moments like the intro to Mass Defect and title track Totentanz providing some of the most industrial metal-sounding moments on the album, and keyboardist Anna (who also handles the flutes on the album) is responsible for helping make these sound as natural as possible on the album, and I have to say, this is perhaps one of the more enjoyable extreme metal albums that has managed to fuse these elements nicely. The band also constantly includes surprises throughout the album, with songs like the ballad Death Won’t Separate Us containing some of the most melodic moments on the album, with guitarists Sigurd and Master Alafern displaying some of their most emotional guitar works, displaying the versatility in their playing. A Crumple Story even contains what sounds like a saxophone in the background, bringing about a comparison with Sigh with the quirkiness in Thunderkraft‘s music as well.
The album is not without its failings though, as there are certain moments that stand out and potentially bring down the enjoyment of the album, with the nu-metal feel of title track Totentanz being one of the more prominent track, containing some of the most cringe-inducing moments on the album. Apart from the “heavy” sounding riffs (that have artificial harmonics punctuating these riffs, think Linkin Park with their first 2 albums), vocalist Amorth also makes use of a semi-shouting vocal style, making the song sound as if it came out more than 10 years late, after the demise of nu-metal. Despite the band’s best efforts to make this track sound as best as possible such as through the guitar solo included on the track, the nu-metal influences have certainly made this one of the least enjoyable tracks on the album, with the keys and industrial elements making things worse in this instance.
Thunderkraft‘s latest effort, Totentanz is a nice mixed bag of surprises, and while at times it could get slightly dry, overall the album is a pretty enjoyable release to say the least, and is good for fans of folk metal looking for something that sounds fresh and different from the usual folk metal releases.