Review – Heathen Foray: The Passage

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Review – Heathen Foray: The Passage
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Heathen Foray: The Passage
Melodic Viking Metal
Black Bards Entertainment
April 24th, 2009
Release length: 43:23
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Heathen Foray is called one of Austria’s best Folk Metal bands, though many reviewers happen to see it another way. The group formed back in 2004, but didn’t record anything until 2007, which was when the band recorded their demo, Forest. Of course, it took nearly two years for Heathen Foray to find a home with Black Bards Entertainment to issue this, their debut full-length effort, The Passage. Obviously it’s been a struggle for the band, making progress slowly with every step they take. Typically, this kind of slow progression works in favor of bands, allowing them more time to put together solid material, but the question here is actually whether or not this extra time spent actually aids the band for this debut release.

While a lot of people look down upon Heathen Foray, sometimes it feels a little unwarranted. The Passage is an alright album that has some good, catchy tracks that have a solid Viking Metal influence, but sometimes the band seems to try a little too hard to do too much with a song. The music on this album can sometimes be a little experimental for the band and the style they are playing, such as the track “Winterking”, which features a sudden drop in a Folk-like acoustic piece that slowly builds back up to the more inspirational-sounding music. This sudden drop feels pointless and tacked on, though in some aspects it works, failing mostly due to the poor transitions in and out. The effects added during this section that seem instrument related feel like a very poor choice, and kind of hurt the song a bit, though the natural flow of the track had already been lost. Had this section not been included, this song would have made for a nice track due to the atmosphere it gives off thanks to the lead guitar riffs that bring in that folksy viking-like feel to the music with chords that one wouldn’t naturally expect for a band of this style.

While the band does random moments like that, which seem more like experimental bridges that were tacked on either for the sake of trying to put out a more Viking Metal sound, or they just didn’t know how to go from point a to point b well enough, there’s still some enjoyable music here. The album starts off well enough with “Fading Tree”, which is a strong track that welcomes you to the band’s take on the Viking Metal style, but introduces a lot of general ideas that many might hear, or already have heard, on an Amon Amarth album. “Fortress of Faith” makes for another inspirational track, bringing in some good gutturals to back up the joyous sounding guitar chords that line the chorus of the song, but the rest of the song feels more like a war march if anything that is still retained somewhat in the background of the chorus, causing it to ultimately clash with the rest of the album. Those kind of stand out folk-like lead guitar riffs that are laid over the music like a failed solo can sometimes offer a fun element to the music, but sometimes they become a bit too much, or even make the music sound somewhat hollow, which, with “Fortress of Faith”, it was a case similar to the latter of that statement.

The main issues with this release lies in the music. Due to that style of guitar work, there’s so much going on in many songs that just causes overkill, as well as a lack of any serious bite to the music. “Chants” is a great fast paced track that shines nicely for the band, however it is met with abuse of the folk-like lead riffs that seems to push the album along in an ADHD little kid kind of way, leaving the guitars to sound a little weak. However, the following tracks “Dragon’s Eyes” and “Ancient Secrets” are very strong tracks that showcase some great driving riffs and perfectly suiting growling, but, again, nothing all that original, and the lead folk guitars are layered over the actual guitars, sometimes at a lower volume, like with “Ancient Secrets”, to the point where it’s just audible and actually starts to become irritating because it’s there, but just in the background low enough that it sounds unimportant, but it still there like a fly buzzing around you that you can’t swat at.

In the long run, The Passage makes for a good CD to listen to casually. It does have some tracks that actually are good and on par with some of today’s more well-known Viking Metal acts. However, the problem is that the music isn’t really all that original, and often seems to do too much at once, leaving the album to suffer from unmet expectations and generic early-Amon Amarth worship that simply doesn’t pack the same bite. Had this album come out even five years ago, it would have been able to stand on its own and been a little more well accepted, but, sadly, much of this album has been done to death already, as well as done better.


01. Falling Tree – 5:19
02. Northstar – 3:34
03. Winterking – 4:56
04. Fortress of Faith – 4:18
05. Chants – 4:12
06. Dragon’s Eyes – 4:33
07. Ancient Secrets – 3:40
08. Wolkenbruch – 3:58
09. Theatre of Battle – 5:06
10. Wilderness Lore – 3:47
Initial Pressing Score: 3/10

Heathen Foray
Heathen Foray

Digital review copy of this release provided by Black Bards Entertainment
via Earsplit PR.