From the east bearing gifts come Slovakia’s Avven. Their self-proclaimed “Rock of the East” sound is comparable to the folk-rock and metal found in Scandinavia and the band’s latest offering, Kastalija, fuses traditional folk music with rock guitars.
First things first, this album is fun to listen to. It doesn’t require the listener to be in any particular mood or mindset, and could easily be an album to always have in the car. Each song is approachable and has something to bring to the table, whether it be a deviation in style or the introduction of one of the many different instruments used.
The opening track – Zamji – really sums up Avven’s sound. Featuring flutes and distorted guitars with clean male vocals – staples of the folk-rock genre – the track fits exactly into how I expected Avven to sound.
The female vocals which feature on third track Nuala are definitely reminiscent of Nightwish, and during the duet with the male lead, the voices complement each other very well. Vvile, which follows, is very much in the same vein as the opening track. It’s probably one of the heavier songs on the album, and certainly wouldn’t be amiss on a Skyrim soundtrack. The next two songs, Ibo and Tarak, lean more towards the band’s metal side, however fit neatly into the middle of the album. Spain sounds very Middle Eastern with its oriental-esque guitar riffs before L. 78, one of the stand-out tracks on the album, blends the sounds of Poets of the Fall and Nightwish.
As the final song on the album, I was expecting a lot from Tornach, and I was not disappointed. Beginning with harpsichords and violins, it soon changed to the now-familiar mix of guitars and traditional instruments. Although the album has no explicit theme or concept, this final song ties various elements of the entire album together.
Admittedly, Kastalija can sound a little Eurovision at times, but the light-hearted atmosphere of the album means this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Lordi, after all, won the competition a few years ago. Throughout, the album feels as if the musicians writing it were comfortable making this kind of music, and as a result it feels complete. Avven set out to write songs of “heroism and fantasy”, and in my opinion they have done just that.
Kastalija by Avven is available now.