Having formed back in 2010, Ukranian Pagan Folk Metallers Thirteenth Tambourine (Тринадцатый Бубен) recently unleashed their debut full-length album entitled ‘Marsh Madness’ (Болотный Угар), getting a worldwide release via SoundAge Productions… and what a debut it is!
From the artwork itself and listening to the album’s intro track ‘Drapa / Драпа’, it seems that I’m going to be listening to an album entirely influenced by Finntroll. On further listening, the album is anything but a simple sound-alike experience from the first song to the last.
Thirteenth Tambourine have no difficulties expressing their diverse musical interests and a host of influences through the course of the album. Whilst the Death-Polka vibe is the backbone of the musical style, keeping everything chugging along in a jaunty fashion, there is a distinct Slavic flavour, whilst other influences, such as crushing down-tuned Death Metal and moments of heavy, dramatic atmosphere and even modern Black Metal, help to give each song a sense of unique identity, leaving not one single track sounding like the last, or simply being forgettable.
I enjoyed practically every song on this album, but if I had to pick some notable highlights it would have to include ‘Werewolf / Волколак’, a track that sounds as if Korpiklaani have relocated to Norway to dabble in some sort of Blackened Folk Metal hybrid, where the Jew’s Harp and rousing vocal arrangements perform in perfect harmony alongside darkly fantastical atmosphere, grim guitar riffs and powerful blast beats.
‘Two Suns / Два солнца’ is simply excellent, with its hypnotic, melodic motif, a crushing Death Metal backdrop and peppering of brutal Blackened refrains, whilst the punishing heaviness of ‘Spell / Заговор’ features heavy, hard-hitting Melodic Death Metal at its core.
Thirteenth Tambourine manage to be fun, danceable, dark and brutal in the space of a single song, sometimes all in the same moment, without sounding disjointed. It’s an impressive feat that results in an infectiously enjoyable experience. Perfect after a tough day when you need something to lift your spirits and put a smile on your face, or even if you’re in a good mood and need something to let loose to and what’s more, you don’t even need to be singing along. That’s the beauty of music – even though you may not understand the language of the lyrics, the instrumentation is often powerful enough for you to connect with its energy.
My only reservation for giving this the full 5 stars would be the length of the album. Despite there being 9 tracks, most of the tracks average 3 minutes, with some of them falling below the 3-minte mark, which results in a total running time just shy of 30 minutes. Whilst I do agree it’s often better to have a killer album without the unnecessary padding out of fluff and filler tracks, the shorter than average length leaves me feeling like the entire party has stopped way too soon.
If you’re a fan of the vast musical sub-genre that is Folk Metal, or more specifically Death-Polka, but feel the need to expand upon the tried-and-tested formula, I would thoroughly recommend you track this album down and give it a listen (hopefully purchase it too!) – I virtually guarantee you won’t be disappointed.
Video – Marsh Madness Album Teaser