Tuesday 30 April 2013

Cardinals Folly - Strange Conflicts of the Past (Album Review)

Album Type : Full Length
Date Released : 13/6/2013
Label : Shadow Kingdom Records

Strange Conflicts of the Past, album tracklisting:
1. Intro
2. The Right Hand of Doom
3. Rasputin (The Mad Monk)
4. Serpent Nights
5. Opening Ceremony
6. Blood Axis Raider
7. Cardinals Folly
8. They Found Atlantis
9. The Model
10. Transmission From the Mad Arab

Cardinals Folly have been quietly one of the best Finnish Heavy / Doom Metal bands to date. Their early material is all out of print and impossible to get. This is a fine package of all of their early works and arguably their very best material. The tracks 1-3 are from the "Heretic´s Hangover" EP, which was released in early 2008 as the first release under the name of Cardinals Folly. This release was just few hundred copies and was sold out pretty fast. They left out the last track of this EP, "Uncharted Seas" because that was already on the debut album. We wanted to give some unreleased stuff instead. Tracks 5-8 are from the "Orthodox Faces" EP (2009), which was also sold out quickly and received a notable welcoming in the doom circles. Tracks 4,9 and 10 are unreleased tracks from the same era of these two EP´s, also recorded in 2008-2009. Track 4 was featured on The Coven´s 2006 demo-EP "Beltane", but this version of the song is much better, as it´s recorded in 2008 with the Cardinals Folly line-up

Cardinals Folly may not have the most original sound imaginable, but they have a few identifying markers which make them stand out in my mind.  One is their distinctive bass tone which positively waterboards the listener with buckets of heaviness that must be played on the thick ropes of fate itself, that the Elder Gods pull behind the curtain of reality, outside of time.  The second is their highly energetic performance. Spontaneous outbursts of exclamation and vigorous playing that few bands capture on record aren’t always present on their full-length (‘Such Power is Dangerous’ Shadow Kingdom Records 2011) but they are here.  Through it all, the band sounds as though they are enjoying themselves and that goes a long way to creating an enjoyable albeit maniacal listening experience.  The third factor is the manly vocal tone which originates purely from the diaphragm and belches out a gothic tone or horror much in the style of Abysmal Grief (see review), in many respects a fairly typical Finnish style of vocal but rarely done with such gusto as the listener finds here.  These are all check marks in the plus column.  Indeed the band is Finnish, producing a sound that could only have arisen in the hard and frozen north.
The opening trio of tracks are taken from the band’s first recording as Cardinals Folly (before then the band had been known as The Coven).  An intro and two longer tracks which stomp and bite with equal ferocity.  Blood thickening riffs atop a ground shaking drum foundation with that bass-soaked heaviness create an almost claustrophobic sensation in the listener.  You’re not two minutes into “Right Hand of Doom” before you realize you have just become a fan for life.  From there things open up into the more expansive and perhaps less oppressive atmosphere of the group’s second EP,  ‘Orthodox Folly’, featuring a less raw performance altogether, with more blistering leads, presaging the controlled atmosphere of the band’s full-length.
This thing can easily be broken down into three distinct parts, but it doesn’t need to be.  Taken as a whole, it’s a solid album, even though it wasn’t intended to be so during the various stages of its recording.  Of the three previously unreleased tracks, only one of them is a typical ‘song’, the other two, “Opening Ceremony” and “Transmission from the Mad Arab” are an intro/interlude and an ‘outro’.  Both produce interesting soundscapes in their own right, especially the latter track but are also both quite short, neither one breaking the two minute barrier.  The only unreleased ‘song’ was left on the shelf for obvious reasons.  Not because it’s a bad song, it’s actually a great tune, but because it sticks out like a sore thumb amidst the discography and is the only one of these ten cuts that can be seen as disrupting the surprisingly album-like flow of this compilation record. 
The song in question, “The Model” is a Kraftwerk cover, and as such not something you might expect to hear on this kind of album, but the band does a convincing job of dooming it up.  The lyrics aren’t typical doom fair, but the downtuned guitars really do the trick here.  It’s a good song and if you didn’t know it was a Kraftwerk cover, it would never occur to you because Cardinals Folly makes the tune their own.
 ‘Strange Conflicts’ charts the progress of the band in their early days.  On this record you can hear a good band develop and really start to find its niche in a relatively short period of time, starting as an energetic doom band before turning their souls over entirely to the dark lords of traditional doom epicness which comprises the latter half of this disc. Although the difference is only slight, it’s given bolder relief due to both EPs playing side by side on this record.

Words by : Lucas Klaukien

As ever, show your support to the band by checking them out at the various links and buying their merch.  This record is available on 13 June from Shadow Kingdom Records.  Thanks Clawhammer PR for hooking us up with the recordo for review!