Review by Fernando on November 20, 2023.
Being bombastic and over-the-top isn’t all that out of place for metal, many bands lean heavily into those musical extremes and indulgences, and for the most part it works out just fine. I bring this up because this new record by Belarusian folk metal band Synaxaria is a perfect example of bombast.
Synaxaria is a name I wasn’t previously familiar with but looking them up and their background for this review made it clear why their brand of folk metal, which they also combine with gothic metal, is so exuberant, at least from the impression this record gave me. They started out as an industrial goth metal band before ditching the industrial elements and focusing on folk instrumentation and melodies. And this record in particular goes ham with its folkish overtones.
So yeah, this will definitely not be everyone’s cup of tea, the four minute intro track that’s a very Wagnerian synth march with percussion, sounds of battle and vocalist Dzmitry Kramoushchanka raspy and enunciating vocals sets the stage for what’s a very weird, very over-the-top and also anachronistically modern sounding and produced record, that features both the aforementioned folk instrumentation and gothic leanings, but also with death metal styled pitch harmonics and Manowar-styled classic heavy metal riffs and soloing, and their previous experience with industrial music really informs the music’s more flamboyant moments as the music in places reminds me of Slovenian military popsters Laibach but with fiddles and horns instead of cold synths. On paper that sounds like a mess of contradictions, but surprisingly, not only do they make it work, they’re also good at it.
So, the big factor as to why this record is very good in spite of its excesses is consistency and commitment. From beginning to end the band stick with their sound which they describe as romantic melodic metal, and commit to the aesthetic that the music conjures, which is the stories and true tales of their country. The heroes and and their feats, and how many other countries left their mark on Belarus for better or worse, as each song is the soundtrack of those stories, so the presence of folk instrumentation and heavy synths not only makes sense musically but also conceptually. Furthermore the band are damn good performers and songwriters, as none of the songs overstay their welcome, nor are they monotonous. This is very much a record for the music geeks that notice compositions and dynamics.
The bulk of the instruments and songwriting is handled by Dzmitry Kramoushchanka, with the exception of drums which are handled by Alyaxey Hladysh and Natallia Kramoushchanka who offers some operatic vocals for the more glorious and symphonic moments. And yes, they all sell it, even if Dzmitry is the principal performer here, without the drums or Natallia’s vocals this probably wouldn’t sound as good as it does, which is all rounded by the production which is suitably clean for this style of very melodic and catchy metal.
The only gripe I have with this record is that it’s novelty and bombast diminishes on repeated listens, while I have a lot of respect and admiration at the band’s commitment to their music, this style of very flamboyant and exuberant metal can get old really fast, and while it's nowhere near as cheesy and saccharin as a 80’s hair metal or the power metal of Alestorm and Gloryhammer, this is still a style of metal that’s best enjoyed in small doses. But again, I have to point out and praise that the band are in fact very serious and nail the landing for this record’s music and concept, while also maintaining a sense of fun that’s very pleasantly infectious. So even if I don’t completely vibe with the album, it was still a great experience from beginning to end and there’s a lot to enjoy. If you’re into power metal or folk and want something that has more poise than the latest Hammerfall, then for sure check this record out.
Rating: 7 out of 10189