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Thundertale - "Milzinai" (CD)

Thundertale - "Milzinai" CD cover image

"Milzinai" track listing:

1. Is Giriu (Intro) (3:22)
2. Milzinai (4:49)
3. Knights of the Burning Hill (5:29)
4. Zenklai (6:48)
5. Thunder Take Me Away (4:08)
6. Su Veju (4:34)
7. Is It Worth (4:49)
8. Suslamejo Girios Medziai (3:06)
9. Dance in the Wind (4:05)
10. Vienybes Dvasia (4:33)
11. Uz Tevyne (5:20)
12. Su Veju - Piano Version (4:48)

Reviewed by on February 15, 2009

"You may find yourself googling 'Lithuanian folklore' once you’ve experienced 'Milzinai.'"

Call it arrogance or ignorance, but Americans aren’t usually quick to pick up an album whose lyrics are in a foreign language. Picking out the main ideas of a track sung in Spanish or French, languages more familiar to many Americans, can be daunting at best, but Lithuanian? Most Americans would probably automatically reject it, but doing that with Thundertale’s “Milzinai,” meaning “Giants,” would mean missing out on something great.

Thundertale is a Lithuanian power metal band whose motto is “Uz Tevyne,” which means “For the Homeland,” and happens to be the title of song eleven on their latest album. Unlike many metal bands whose music is heavy on anti-establishment themes, Thundertale embraces and praises their country’s traditions and legends, through music that tells tales of ancient folklore. “Milzinai” truly is an album designed for fellow Lithuanians, and yet the warrior theme and pagan deities that pervade their songs give the album appeal outside the Baltic region. In fact, you may find yourself googling “Lithuanian folklore” once you’ve experienced “Milzinai.”

Thundertale’s sound is comparable to other warrior-themed power metal bands like DragonForce, sans the lengthy guitar solos. “Knights of the Burning Hill” is a traditional warrior song, where drums elicit visions of warriors marching into battle. However, Thundertale adds many other elements too, like orchestral flutes and saxophones, folk/Celtic instrumentals, and even a bit of the dramatic musical style of Andrew Lloyd Weber. Indeed at times, most noticeably in “Is It Worth,” the progression of the album feels like a metal version of Phantom of the Opera. The piano version of “Su Veju” also has a theatrical sound, and the result transforms the track into a completely different sound from the folk ballad with a heavy dose of bass drum and shredding guitar version of the song on track six.

Thundertale has mastered the art of blending heavy, fast power metal with haunting folk music. “Milzinai,” “Zenklai,” and the responding “Uz Tevyne” all exhibit this unique quality. “Zenklai” and “Uz Tevyne” open with the same instrumentals, but whereas “Zenklai” is the foreboding of upcoming war, “Uz Tevyne” is the affirmation of faith, and willingness to take up arms and fight for freedom.

“Suslamejo Girios Medziai” is an old Lithuanian folk song, and is another great mix of folk and power metal. This is an epic track with a national anthem feel to it. Another epic is “Vienybes Dvasia,” whose highlight is a guitar that lays down its own melody that evolves into a classic hard rock solo in the breakdown.

The album is laced with imagery of Lithuanian gods, but they become the forefront on “Thunder Take Me Away” and “Dance in the Wind.” Thunder is the highest god in ancient Lithuanian religion, and is somewhat of a combination of Thor and the Grim Reaper. “Thunder Take Me Away” is a beautiful and transcendental acoustical ballad that is a warrior’s plea to Thunder to release him from the grim realities of war and death. “Dance in the Wind” is a slow and sensual love song, though the object of affection is moonlight, and may be a reference to some sort of moon goddess.

Though there are moments when the lead vocals are a bit too mellow for the power metal instrumentals, deeper backup vocals help keep the songs on “Milzinai” grounded. Overall, the only song that isn’t nearly perfection is the intro, “Is Giriu.” While its Celtic flutes and tranquil acoustic guitar create an eerie and soulful backdrop to a pastoral folk song, the spoken vocals on this track sound a little like a priest giving the sacrament. Otherwise, the language barrier aside, Thundertale has composed an album that is a masterful tribute to their homeland. The best part is that non-Lithuanians brave enough to take a chance on Thundertale’s album can even find English translations of all the song’s titles and lyrics on the band’s website.

Highs: Perfect blending of power metal with folk-themed orchestral instruments.

Lows: Spoken vocals on “Is Giriu” are the only low point.

Bottom line: This is a great album for fans of power metal, pagan metal and/or neoclassic.

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)