Corvus Corax, Venus Vina Musica (Noir Records, 2006)

The eccentric German Medieval band Corvus Corax first got my attention a couple of years ago when a compilation of their first decade of music, called Best of Corvus Corax, became their debut American release. The songs the band performs may be meticulously researched from or inspired by ancient (mostly Latin) texts, but their arrangements, mostly featuring an army of bagpipes backed by a barrage of drums, are designed to maximize the energy and mayhem. Their latest album, called Venus Vina Musica, was released in the fall of 2006.

The album begins rather somberly, with a short Latin dirge titled "Anti Dolores Capitis," featuring some deep, infernal chanting at the end. Then the frenzy kicks in with the title track, which I'm guessing is a celebration of wine, women, and song. Most of the songs and instrumentals follow in a similar vein, but the band does break from its basic formula a bit as the album proceeds. The twelve tracks include a rhythmically complex Balkan-flavored instrumental, a French song in a 6/8 rhythm that reminded me a lot of African music, a tune suitable for belly dancing, a dark ominous waltz, and an increasingly frenetic jig. The highlight of the album is the extended jam "Sanyogita," which clocks in at nearly seven minutes. On this track the band demonstrates an ability to gradually build up the tension, instead of simply letting it rip from the start.

Corvus Corax are probably not for everybody -- their presentation is rather bizarre, they don't use the typical assortment of instruments, and subtlety is not one of their strong points -- but I find them to be both interesting and entertaining. When most people think about primal energy or intensity in music, they invariably think about rock and roll, not anything older than that, and certainly not anything a lot older than that. Corvus Corax takes a different approach, and shows that the energy that rock and roll taps into has been a part of music for as long as there's been music.

Overall grade: B

reviewed by Scott

1 comment:

digitaldoc said...

They look like a wholesome bunch!