Grendel’s Sÿster
Myrtle Wreath/Myrtenkranz EP (Re-issue)

I gotta hand it to Cruz del Sur – this label keeps taking me by surprise.

Granted, this might be more to do with my apparent inability to just retain what is an obvious, unmistakable truth, but it seems like every time I venture into one of their new releases, I start off chuckling to myself thinking, “heh, okay, this is kinda fun.” And then inevitably a song or two later something clicks and I say “oh wait a minute, this is actually REALLY good.” It never fails. I am an idiot.

Germany power trio Grendel’s Sÿster is the latest to blow away my sorely underestimated expectations – kicking my ass with 8 songs of totally righteous trad/proto… bard metal(?) that gets better and better as the EP moves along.

This EP has actually been around for about a year, but was just re-released on Cruz del Sur to, hopefully, a more widespread audience that the band 100% deserves. So if you caught this album the first time around – no, you are not caught in an endless time loop doomed to endlessly repeat every detail of your life. 2020 might be bad, but we’re not quite at that level (yet). ANYWAY I’ll give my unpreparedness a little bit of credit this time around – I think it takes a couple songs for these guys to hit their stride. After a spoken word intro, “Vishnu’s Third Stride” doesn’t exactly come in guns blazing. A plodding, doomy start doesn’t really push the needle or get the blood pumping – though some nice lead work from guitarist Tobi certainly does catch your attention. And I’ll admit, singer Caro’s unique, German-tinged, bard-like vocal stylings to a beat for me to get acclimated to (and I’m willing to bet they’re the sort of vocals that are very much “love ‘em or hate ‘em”). Following that is the sorta bouncy, medieval-inspired “Little Wildling Bird” which, honestly, is hard to take very seriously. It’s a fun little track, but the song’s subject matter, very matter-of-factly, is about… well… being a little tiny wildling bird. Listen, I’m not one to ever say metal needs to be a super-serious affair, but it’s hard to get through that one without shaking your head and just kinda giggling at the whole thing.

BUT WAIT! I said there was some gold to be found here, and I wasn’t kidding. Fourth track “Entoptic Petroglyphs” comes in with a new and welcome sense of energy and purpose, boasting a nice mix of riffs and clever little leads that are super catchy and get this ship turned in a totally new direction. A little zap of speed and the albums first really inspired solo make for a great track that totally changes my perception on this thing, which is for the best because now I’m prepared for the friggin’ EXCELLENT “Winnowing the Chaff.” A great guitar lead, a little more driving heft and some great, building vocal lines from Caro bring the song, and indeed the entire EP up a notch.

And the band carries the momentum through the rest of the album – the galloping “Count and Nun” by far the EP’s peppiest, most upbeat track, brings in a welcome NWOBHM vibe to mix with the band’s medieval, bard-like theme. It also features a really neat little vocal and guitar melody interplay that showcases some of the more serious vocal chops that lie somewhat hidden throughout most of the album’s performance. “Indra’s Jewelled Net” keeps the energy level up wth more inspired, galloping guitars and melodic leads, along with some great, simple but effective rumbling drum work that really get your head banging and horns flying. It’s a great way to close out the meat and bones of the album before haunting, acapella closer “Cairns” sees the whole thing out proper. While I can normally do without tracks like these, it really fits in nicely with the entire theme and feel of the album and band that it seems like a perfectly appropriate way to wrap this EP up.

I love it when a band is able to provide something more than just a collection of songs, when they’re able to create a real, tangible listening experience. Slow start aside, Myrtel Wreath succeeds in transporting you outside the normal world. It really feels like stepping into some olden tavern in some mysterious woods while a group of well-traveled, seasoned bards sing stories of life and adventure. Even if you caught it the first time around, this album deserves a second look – it may surprise you all over again like it has surprised me. Break out the mead, gather around the fire, and settle in for a damn good time.

Of note, this reissue also contains Myrtenkranz, a version of the EP with German sung versions of all the songs, a nice little add on for collectors or Teutonophiles.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Steve K
October 23rd, 2020

Comments

  1. Commented by: F.Rini

    Steve- wonderful review. I love Little wilding bird. Ep is so catchy. My fave comp this year.


  2. Commented by: Steven Kuntz

    Little Wilding Bird had really grown on me! It’s just too undeniably catchy!


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