Various Artists – Pagan Fire (Nuclear Blast Records)

Thursday, 14th March 2013
Rating: 8/10

A compilation of the best-of-the-best epic folk metal bands (sans Borknagar and Tyr), Pagan Fire is an excellent introduction into another one of metal’s niches that is only picking up steam.

Heading up the roster are luminaries Bathory, who are arguably the band who set the template back in the early 90’s with the Hammerheart and Twilight of the Gods album, Enslaved who are coincidentally more prog than folk, Amon Amarth, Finntroll and highly underrated Primordial.

It’s hard to find fault with the song selection, with Amon Amarth’s epic battle cry “Victorious March” being one of the obvious standouts, along with Wintersun’s frenetic “Winter Madness” and Finntroll’s mammoth “Nedgang.”

Moonsorrow, who is probably the best band of the bunch gets a nod with “Kylan Paasaa,” although the entire V: Havietty album could serve as a reminder of just how cool epic metal can be. The aging Unleashed gets a turn with “The Longships Are Coming,” an otherwise stock track, while upstarts Ensiferum and Korpiklaani make an appearance to demonstrate just where this style is headed.

With so much to choose from, some bands had to be left off in lieu of more contemporary acts like Turisas who are no more than a fourth-rate Ensiferum and ever-nauseating Bal-Sagoth who have never failed to disappoint. Still, Pagan Fire is one of the better compilations to hit the market of late and for those in search of the bridge between power metal and melodic death metal would be best served to seek this out.

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