Saltatio Mortis -

Medieval Metal - one of the more elusive, even exclusive, subgenres in metal, generating responses ranging from rapturous praise from its albeit relatively few diehard followers to the possibly more common “medieval what?!” Falling into the latter category and taking it one step further by questioning “why?” it’s quite easy to dismiss this lesser known and oft misunderstood branch on the metal family tree as anything from a joke to just plain shit. However, if one bothers to move beyond the sometimes cheesy aesthetics and the fusion of traditional metal instruments such as guitars, bass and drums with medieval and folk instruments like the hurdy gurdy, lute and bag pipe, one will discover that the individuals behind the music display the same uncompromising devotion to experimentation and inherent disregard for writing songs that may appeal to a more mainstream audience which has been at the heart of metal since four lads from Birmingham downtuned their guitars and embraced the Devil’s note all those years ago.

Saltatio Mortis - a reference to Death’s portrayal in medieval art - are a medieval metal/rock band hailing from Germany who formed nine years ago after meeting at a medieval fair, brought together by their common love of folk music. A steady stream of releases through Napalm Records has followed with a few line-up changes along the way, and their ninth and most recent album “Wer Wind Saet” (“He Who Sows The Wind” apparently) is for people who want to hear what the middle ages may have sounded like had it been electrified.

There’s a certain theatricality and extravagance that goes along with any of metal’s slightly more eccentric offspring i.e. the Battle, Viking and Folk metals of the world, each of them influenced in varying degrees by melodic death, power, and black metal, and drawing upon tales of yore for thematic and lyrical content. In the case of Saltatio Mortis and their most recent album the result is a mixed bag of mostly mid-tempo ditties sung in their native German, combining the vast array of instruments at their disposal and seamlessly weaving them together to transform what sound like medieval folk songs into epic tales, the hurdy gurdy and bag pipe in particular adding an extra dimension to the music, both instruments playing an effective counterpoint to the guitars.

Repetitious, OD’ing on nostalgia, and not at all ground breaking, “Wer Wind Saet” isn’t about to change the minds of metal fans who view Medieval metal and its ilk as non-compulsory listening, but judging by the number of German festivals these guys play and the regularity with which they release records, fans don’t seem to be in short supply.