Kauja Pie Saules
posted on 10/2006 By:
What’s On Tap: Solid re-release from Latvia’s most respected Pagan folk metal band...
For 3,000 years the Sun wheel swastika was not only used to symbolize positive ideals such as “good fortune”, “well being”, and “protection”, but it held significant pre-Christian religious connotations for numerous ancient cultures as well. It’s considered a sacred symbol in Odinism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism, and was also commonly used by the ancient Greeks and Celts, along with many Asian, African, Native American, and European nations, Latvia included. Unfortunately, everything pretty much went to hell following Nazi Germany’s decision to officially adopt the motif in 1920, which very quickly put a damper on the symbol’s long-standing positive representation in cultures throughout the world.
So, what the hell does this have to do with my review of Kauja Pie Saules? Well, as anyone with eyes can probably see, Skyforger has chosen to replace the “o” in their moniker with a Sun wheel swastika, and as a result of the taboo imagery the symbol immediately conjures in my abundantly Western mind, I’ve avoided the band for many years because of it. However, now that I’ve researched just how extensively the symbol was used prior to Nazi Germany, I’ve come to realize the band’s motivation has nothing to do with political or racial agenda, and everything to do with their desire to symbolize their ancient Latvian culture, and to musically represent their pre-Christian, Pagan ancestors’ various struggles and mythos. So, with my rant now finally out of the way, I’d like to make the following statement - I’ve been missing out on a very talented Pagan folk metal band all these years.
Originally released in 1998, Kauja Pie Saules takes Skyforger one step further away from the traditional Scandinavian black metal roots already set forth on the band’s 1997 demo. The record still spotlights plenty of razor-riffs, a beautifully rumbling bass sound, and Peter’s early impish rasp, but it also infuses even more traditional Latvian folk elements, and isn’t afraid to slow the pace to a trot, giving the record a very 1990/1991 Bathory-esque feel at times. And now, thanks to the fine folks at US based Paragon Records, this classic slab of Paganism is immediately more accessible to those of us in the Western Hemisphere with a serious taste for traditional folk metal. And friends, this record certainly does its part in satisfying your Pagan metal hunger.
Album opener, “Neighed the Battle Horses”, and the seventh track, “Why the Horns of War Are Blown” stand as the only entirely folk based tunes, and both feature finely layered, clean, sea-shanty-like vocals, with the latter nearly coming across as a Native American ditty because of its emphasis on the wood-pipe and the tribal drumming. “The Battle of Saule”, “Kurshi”, and “Battle at Goroza Forest” all head for more of a mid-paced black metal gallop, which when mixed with the sporadic flute, strummed acoustic, wave-lapping samples, and seriously Quorthonian leads, gives a good portion of this record the Hammerheart feel I mentioned earlier. “Viestards Fight at Mezotne” exhibits the record’s only tune completely devoid of folk traces, and rips with much more of a nod towards early 90’s Norwegian black metal. “The Ancient Oak”, “Forger Forged Up In the Sky”, and “Sacred Firecross” attack with a similar acerbic, early 90's Immortal-ish flare, but their generous use of flute, bagpipes, guimbarde (juice harp), and zither does well in further rooting this release in a warm, Baltic-folk tradition.
Kauja Pie Saules is a quality Pagan metal re-release, and one certainly recommended to fans of the genre that have not already scooped it up. Some may question my choice to even remark on the band’s decision to use the Sun wheel in their logo, but part of me just couldn’t shake the thought that if I was so willing to toss a snap-judgment towards Skyforger based on their choice of iconography and my bias, perhaps there are others that have done the same. My hope is that my review will help encourage a few more US based metalheads to give this band the attention I believe they deserve. Still, things sure would be a lot easier to digest if they’d just say “yes” to the “o”.
Register to post comments.