For the second time in several days I have received an e-mail from a band linking me to their latest release and for the second time in several days I’m very happy I checked my e-mails. Coming from Poland, a land that has produced some incredibly brutal metal, Pospolite Ruszenie have thrown a curveball in the face of that full metal onslaught. Promising a historical based journey through time to the tune of folk rock/metal with medieval (and more) instruments, they’ve certainly got a unique selling point over their fellow countrymen, but what about the rest of the world?
I’m a big fan of folk influence in rock/metal so the idea of a “medieval folk rock metal band” appealed to me. However, my expectations and what I received were two vastly different things. When I hear the words “medieval,” “folk,” and “metal” in a sentence, I expect Jaldaboath level silliness. I anticipate Monty Python and the Holy Grail with guitar solos.
What Pospolite Ruszenie delivers is a well researched, musical journey into Polish history, worlds apart from the comedy folk metal we’ve grown used to in recent years. I’ll have to visit the PR materials to explain properly, as I don’t want to make a mistake here, not being proficient in old Polish music. One hugely important point here I feel the need to make is that this is their debut album, and when you read about the ambitious mission goal they set themselves, you’ll be equally as impressed.
“Based on the original works of Mikołaj Gomółka (c. 1535 – 1591), Władysław of Gielniów (c.1440 – c. 1505), Wacław of Szamotuły (c. 1525 – c. 1560) or Mikołaj Sęp Szarzyński (c. 1550 – 1581),” the music “showcases a modern approach to the more or less well-known musical and lyrical masterpieces of the Polish Mediaeval, Renaissance and Baroque period.”
This alone should rouse some interest among people, it will be interesting to see what a Polish listener takes from this compared to someone from another country. As a Scot I don’t particularly know these figures and melodies, so I’m coming in with fresh ears, but I’m eager to hear the views of a Pole. With that in mind, no matter what your feelings are towards the music, a group of people bringing aspects of their culture to the wider world is always a feat to be celebrated.
The music is excellent though. The use of a wide variety of instruments makes every song unique in itself while the vocals tie each track together. What really separates this release from others is the wide range of genres the album covers. Obviously there’s the folk aspect, but it is laired on top of everything from metal through to funk and jazz. If there’s one thing to take away from this, folk and jazz is an excellent combo, one I’ve never thought of before. The key fact here though is that they slide between each genre without an obvious jump, the listener isn’t taken out the music.
Returning to the wide variety of instruments, it is this that really makes this album stand out. Whether due to budget or skill, so many bands rely on synth effects in place of the proper instruments and it often shows. I can’t be sure if all the instruments from Pospolite Ruszenie are the real deal, but the most important part is that they sound right and it is through that they achieve their goal of taking the “listener on a journey back in time.”
I can’t really award a song of the album this time around as, at least for me, it doesn’t seem like something you just pick tracks from, you either commit to the full thing or several tracks at the very least. If I was forced to choose I would lean towards the opening track Niescie chwale, mocarze (Ascribe unto the Lord, O Ye Mighty).
One element outside of the music I particularly enjoyed was the booklet and the background information for each song contained within it. As I write this I’m listening to Dobranoc Ci, Anusienku / Good night, Annie again, and learning that the music was created by anonymous (XVII c.) & Krzysztof Kramarz while the lyrics are “generally ascribed to Adam Strzezowczyk-Lewandowic (early XVII c.)” This information combined with how the band worked these sources into a modern song really makes you appreciate the amount of work that has gone into this album.
To be honest, this review wasn’t easy to write, the combination of musical styles with a rich historical archive was fairly unexpected and I found myself spending more time reading about the songs than writing about them. Though I wouldn’t be surprised if the band were happy with that result, bringing Poland’s history to the rest of the world.
Despite the challenge in writing about it, I thoroughly recommend this album, but only if you promise to sit down and listen to it properly. The amount of work put into this deserves your attention for three quarters of an hour. It’s hard to suggest an “if you’re a fan of *blank*, you’ll like this” unless I start throwing Ritchie Blackmore’s name around the place. If you’re at all interested in history or folk influenced music you’ll most likely enjoy this though.
It’s not the kind of folk metal that has you singing with your face painted at around 4am at a festival, but we already have plenty of that to enjoy. It’s sort of nice to have an album like this you can relax to and even learn from. Then when it’s done, stick on Alestorm and head to the pub.
It’s usually here that we use our silly rating system, but it almost feels wrong to put it on this (and we don’t really have one to fit the band), so we’re forced to go for a plain numerical score – a strong 4/5
Pospolite Rusezenie is out now. Visit the groups Facebook page for more information