HEATHEN FORAY began their journey with the ambition to blend the heaviness of death metal with lighthearted and catchy melodies that will stay in your mind long after you heard them. This authentic mix, seasoned with folk music elements, paid off as the band’s sing-along themes and skull splitting riffs earned them a following of underground metal fans and media taste-makers.
Whereas other bands in the general vicinity of this genre mix tend to dress up in medieval clothing or play Vikings on stage, HEATHEN FORAY made a clear statement that their kinship with the Pagan ways is a modern interpretation of them. What else is a modern Pagan than an activist for a cleaner environment, sustainable living, and social solidarity? This led to their music often being described as “neo pagan metal” and their songs being advocates against climatechange and oppression.
The band’s new album “Oathbreaker” embraces these ideas both lyrically and musically. The album sees the band return to their melodic and uplifting musical roots that will remind fans much more of earlier albums like “The Passage” and “Armored Bards” rather than the much darker “Weltenwandel” from 2020.
While Amon Amarth and melodic death metal cultists like Children of Bodom and Insomnium are kindred spirits vocally, front man Robert Schroll draws his lyrical inspiration from his disgust with the late-stage capitalism world we live in. Lyrics, for him, are a poetic art form that allows him to express the band’s united ideals on climate change, sustainability, exploitation, solidarity, and the fading connection of today’s society with nature.
On early albums often telling an allegorical story, he has taken to addressing his misgivings, and the obvious carnage in the world, more candidly on this release, the songs often being called “soundtrack to Fridays for Future” by fans as Robert’s lyrics took on a more aggressive stance towards the agents of the engineered apocalypse.
Founder and guitarist Jürgen Brüder has been the driving force behind the band’s aspirations since the very beginning. He is the main songwriter and recorded the album in his own studio in Graz, Austria. Drummer “Puma” is named after an apex predator; it would be an easy joke and a severe understatement to say that his namesake gave him the ability to strike the drums just like a Puma slays his prey on this album.
Brothers Max and Alex Wildinger, respectively playing bass and guitar, embraced the bands philosophy as well and live meat-free and as sustainable as possible while contributing, through their roots in classic heavy metal and rock, most of the power metal spirit that can be heard in so many of the band’s creations. It is not by accident that the album’s rhythms are so tight and locked-in as the brothers have been performing together since their early childhood. Both seem to adjust to the other’s musical needs instinctively, and it shows in every driving bassline and earth-shattering riff on this album!
The opening song, and album title track, “Oathbreaker” summarizes the band’s environmental message. The mix of English and German lyrics is a first for the band. Old-school In Flames/ Dark Tranquillity grooves meet the band’s own signature style of folk melodies and crushing low-end. Humanity has broken its oath to protect and nourish the world they live in. They are the betrayers and must repent.
“Leben” (Eng.: Life) tells the tale of losing your childlike curiosity and imagination while being formed into a “productive member” of society. The protagonist exclaims “I will show the world that I will not bend my knee” in this all-German-lyrics song. A strong power metal influence can be heard on this track while it combines the most technical leads on the album with a strong singalong chorus.
The third track “Ahnenreih” (Eng.: Line of ancestors) might be the most personal track the band has ever recorded. The band collected stories and quotes from passed away relatives and combined them into a heart-wrenching song that shows us that we all stand on the shoulders of giants. The band used their native local dialect of Styrian-German to express their emotions as undiluted as possible. Musically they also look back at their roots and deliver the folkiest song
on the whole album.
It’s getting heavy in the fourth song “Heimdalls Spross” (Eng.: Scion of Heimdall)! A driving, Amon Amarth-esque riff leads us through this headbanging journey. The German lyrics warn humanity about the impending doom of the environmental apocalypse. Change now or burn forever in the fires of history.
When fighting for the environment all day, one needs to take a break from time to time. What do modern Pagans do while on a break? Right. They drink! “Allvoll” (Eng.: Always full) is a love letter to beer, its brewing process, and its golden magical wetness. If the world must end, you better be drinking!
Song number 6 will sober you right up again: “1000 Years Of Human Flesh” points the finger at organized religion that led to the burning of heretics in Europe in the year 1022 (Orléans heresy). 1000 years later the influence of the church is still strong in countries like Austria and even has a resurgence in other countries. Using a mix of German and English lyrics, the band reminds us that no shepherd will save us, only we can save ourselves. The music is a touch darker and
has an almost Primordial, black metal vibe.
Greed, exploitation, and child labor are the topics of the next song “Raiment”. The all-English lyrics hold a mirror to the face of the consumer and the trend towards fast fashion. Musically the song takes inspiration from Indian music and pairs it with an untypical funk groove. Surely the most experimental song on the album.
After hearing how humanity is doomed for almost 40 minutes, the band closes the album with a call to arms. Children Of Bodom influenced leads meet thunderous death metal riffs. The lyrics of “Covenant Of Swords” mix German and English to tell you: ‘Act now. Find your brothers in arms, unite and fight with raised swords against your oppressors. There is still hope!’
01 – Oathbreaker
02 – Leben
03 – Ahnenreih
04 – Heimdalls Spross
05 – Allvoll
06 – 1000 Years Of Human Flesh
07 – Raiment
08 – Covenant Of Swords
– Robert Schroll – Vocals
– Jürgen Brüder – Guitars
– Alex Wildinger – Guitars
– Max Wildinger – Bass
– Markus “Puma” Kügerl – Drums