German Folk Metal progenitors Suidakra are set to release Echoes of Yore through MDD Records on Friday, November 15th.
With 2018’s Cimbric Yarns still fresh in the minds of listeners, the band launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund and re-record a classic track list. The range was limited to the early material of the band, starting with their 1997 debut Lupine Essence and touching work as recent as 2002’s Emprise to Avalon, with 1998’s Auld Lang Syne, 1999’s Lays from Afar, and 2000’s The Arcanum in between as well.
For this new collection, founding Guitarist/Vocalist and namesake Arkadius Antonik – Suidakra, coming from reversing Arkadius – finds himself joined by Guitarist Sebastian Jensen, Bassist Tim Siebrecht, along with latest addition, Drummer Ken Jentzen. Another treat is the inclusion of original Co-Vocalist Marcel Schoenen, who sang on the first four albums before Antonik helmed Emprise to Avalon largely alone. As you would expect, the production quality, musical chops, and access to production facilities have naturally improved in the nearly twenty years since these tracks were first recorded. Perhaps most obviously, the underlying genre has largely changed; originally more of a Black/Death Metal band, the Celtic and Folk influences really took over the direction of the band.
One of the more stark examples would be “Havoc,” the third track here, taken from the band’s third album, Lupine Essence. The original version begins with a sound that is straight Black Metal, before shifting into a few bars of melodic Folk influences. The Black Metal ethos does return to help close the track, but by the time the band re-recorded the song over two decades later, the opening has taken more of a Prog/Power Metal effect, and the subsequent Celtic spans fall in line with more recent output from the band.
This is while the fresh take on “Hall of Tales” represents the best ground this project can hope to cover. Somewhat dense and middling during its first lap, the new version sounds much crisp and refined without losing the burning aggression of that first recording. Then “Pendragon’s Fall,” one of the more recent selections, covers similar ground; a swift Death Metal opening in the original recording is put on hold with a grim vocal incantation on the newer track, followed by a noticeably faster take on the first movement. Oddly enough, another ancient track, “Banshee,” seems to have lost a bit of the lighter Folk feel as originally put to tape; the newer recording relies more on vocals and chorus work to keep the Folk alive, while the underlying music leans toward a Death Metal progression.
Later on, largely driven by sparse vocals and acoustic guitar in its original form, “Rise of Taliesin” is offered here with richer instrumentation and vocals that show both the skill and wear of two decades. Still, the track loses a bit of its nascent beauty, with the first pass in 2000 having an earthy, innocent feel that here sounds a bit too polished, and almost does not stand out despite its general lack of electric instruments.
For the most part, Echoes of Yore takes aim at longtime fans and serious completists. While the material does well in covering an early stage of the band, the polish applied to some of the rawer moments hinders enjoyment more than it enhances. The organic growth of the band, from album to album, is largely lost in the updated versions present here. Still, it is a treat to experience a band at this stage of their career revisit and respect their earliest work with the wisdom and experience that only comes with long years of hard work. That is why Cryptic Rock is gives Echoes of Yore 3 out of 5 stars.