Sangre Cavallum – Barbara Carmina

This album was released on Blood Axis’ Storm label last year and really came as a surprise to me. Apparently “Barbara Carmina” is the debut of this collective of musicians from Portugal and Galicia, but it doesn’t sound like we’re listening to a group of newbies here. This special album is a must for anyone into (both traditional and dark) folk and medieval music.

A cd with no less than 18 tracks in a nice digipack with great photos and background info about this project. The album is `inspired by the ethnological heritage of the traditional world`, by the heathen hymns and pagan creeds of northern Portugal and Galiza, far from `this demented realm of consumption and disorder’. Most songs were written by Sangre Cavallum themselves, with a handful of traditionals added. The album was recorded on a four-track cassette recorder and later remastered by Robert Ferbrache. The four main musians play a wide variety of instruments, from bagpipes to flutes, from accordion to mandolin and a whole range of other percussion, wind, string and others instruments. But Sangre Cavallum are not conservative and also added some keyboard and field recordings. Both male and female vocals are featured on the album.

Though they are building on century-old traditions I nevertheless find the music original. It’s honest and a little raw sounding acoustic folk music, which sounds refreshingly different than the nordic folk which I hear more often. The music on “Barbara Carmina” is highly varied, each song has its own discerning elements. Some tracks are melancholic, others cheerful or determined. Various modern avantgardistic elements which are added to the mix make it even more special. Though not completely comparable, some other acts influenced by southern European music come to mind now and then, like O Paradis, Novy Svet or Allerseelen.

Some tracks on this album will be appreciated by Blood Axis fans, especially ‘Limia, Flumen Oblivionis’, which strongly reminds me of ‘The March of Brian Boru’. My favourite track is probably ‘Cantiga do Sol-Posto’, which comes in the direction of classic apocalyptic folk, with its dark bass, martial percussion and deep vocals. Also nice are instrumentals like ‘A tu puerta sta un nino’, which will appeal to lovers of psychedelic folk music.
A great and rich album steeped in tradition, which evokes many images and moods.

artist: Sangre Cavallum
label: Storm Records
details: 18 tracks, 2004 [STRM-10]