I listen to a lot of music, a good 5-8 hours a day. If I could, I would buy any decent album that passes my ears. But alas, I don't make that kind of money, and I have mouths to feed. As a result, I do a lot of weeding out through redundancy. With that in mind, I was less than enthusiastic going into my first listen of Mach Dich Frei. Having heard more than one person draw comparisons to Moonsorrow, a band I place in the top 5 of extreme folk, Finsterforst seemed a likely pass.
On first listen, Mach Dich Frei did feel like a Voimasta ja kunniasta or Kivenkantaja with German lyrics. The more than passing resemblance is apt, right down to the trademark accordion melodies. Meaty power chord sustains and atmospheric synths join to create walls of sound with a foreboding sensibility. Haunting clean-sung passages offset the grim staccato growls. Sorrowful string arrangements. Yes, plenty of this territory is quite familiar.
However, it is the subtle touches that help Finsterforst carve their own niche. For one, the drumming on this album is absolutely show-stealing. "Wombo" may not be the fastest or most technical, but the production and adept songwriting choices in this area let the kit truly shine. The hearty bass drum and abundant toms are fit for a stadium and add a sense of weight to compositions. Various textures, patterns, and pacing choices also help to carry songs through their challenging lengths. Additionally, Finsterforst utilize some heavy brass sections less typical of the genre. At key crescendos, these horns blast some of the best accompanying melodies I have heard in a while.
In the end, Mach Dich Frei was a pleasant surprise and early contender for extreme folk of 2015. While the track lengths and album as a whole can drag at times, the mature songwriting and varied rhythms keep things moving and never become outright dull. Furthermore, the album was a grower for me. I found myself compelled to come back several times and was rewarded each subsequent listen with new admiration. While the Moonsorrow parallel is strong, Finsterforst have convinced me that they deserve recognition through clear passion and professional expertise. And let's be honest, this album is better written and far more enjoyable than anything Moonsorrow have done since 2005's Verisakeet. Move over, Finland, Germany is coming.