Review: Blood & Sand - Bardo (2007)


artist: Blood & Sand
release: Bardo
format: CD-R
year of release: 2007
label: Bunkier Pro­duc­tions
dur­a­tion: 46:49

detailed info: dis​cogs​.com

When it comes to cap­tur­ing and deliv­er­ing feel­ings, I think the Rus­si­ans do a good job. And they have proven sev­eral times that when it comes to play­ing dark folk music they also know what they are doing. Of all the bands I can think of, I can’t remem­ber one that has dis­ap­poin­ted me. And now it’s Blood & Sand’s time to show the world what they go for.
Even before the disc is placed in the CD-player, you are full of impres­sions. The cover art is great, and the pack­aging as well. It’s like a book with the lyr­ics and more art­work in the vein of the cover pic­ture prin­ted in sil­ver on a black back­ground. The lyr­ics are the only inform­a­tion we get, no names of the musi­cians and no records info what so ever.

Even though most of the song titles are in Eng­lish, the lyr­ics are all in Rus­sian. I think that is a good thing; I always prefer when bands sing with their nat­ive tongue, even if it means that I don’t get the lyr­ics. With Eng­lish titles it gives at least a hint what the songs are about. Even bet­ter would be to include Eng­lish trans­la­tions of the lyr­ics. Any­way, the album opens with the only track that actu­ally doesn’t have an Eng­lish title, the title track “Bardo”. Imme­di­ately you can tell this is a fresh wind. Its strum­ming gui­tar, clas­sical violin arrange­ments and soft key­board plings brings the land com­rades Romowe Rikoito to mind but it’s not quite as tra­gic. That we owe to the vocal­ist whose voice bal­ances between dev­ast­ated and cheer­ful. A flute and some simple drums can also be heard, barely.
The fol­low­ing track “You Search” is slower with a more romantic feel­ing and it makes me think of Ashram’s gui­tar driven songs. Even slower is the one after that, an instru­mental piece called “Uprise”. Once again the Romowe Rikoito influ­ences are obvi­ous.

Blood & Sand con­tin­ues to deliver classy dark folk and the fur­ther into the album we get, the more power­ful the songs are. Beside the bands I’ve men­tioned you’ll hear influ­ences from Ger­man acts like Sonne Hagal and For­seti here and there but the band’s per­sonal style stays intact. The instru­ment­a­tion remains, rely­ing on gui­tars and viol­ins, but the sixth track also includes an accor­dion. This track stands out in other ways as well… In some earlier songs there was a woman choir­ing. Here she sings a duet with the main vocal­ist. It’s quite nice.

On “Col­lapse” the album takes a short turn towards the neo­clas­sical way. Strings, drums, a layer of atmo­spheric key­boards and some strange samples that sound like a chil­dren laugh­ing. Com­bine that with some Rus­sian angst and there we have a really touch­ing piece of ambi­ence that leads us straight into one of my per­sonal favour­ites on this album. It sounds like “Ideal” has drawn more inspir­a­tion from the Ger­man scene than the pre­vi­ous tracks. The viol­ins are more folky than clas­sical and the drums more prom­in­ent in this song. What fol­lows is an instru­mental outro with a slow piano melody that moves over into a del­ic­ate gui­tar, all backed up by the cries of a lonely violin. There is also a bonus track, a dif­fer­ent ver­sion of the second track, this time with birds and ocean waves samples, and female vocals.

I can under­stand that when you read this review, you might think, “Aha, another neo­folk release. I’ve heard this a mil­lion times before”, but I must say that Blood & Sand is some­thing spe­cial, they already stand out with their own strong sound in the dark folk world. What makes this a win­ner are the beau­ti­ful melod­ies and the pro­fes­sional played strings. There are, of course, things that could have been improved but this is non­ethe­less one of the most prom­ising debuts of the year. To bad it seems that Blood & Sand will never get the chance to improve since rumours are say­ing that they already have dis­ban­ded. If so, I sense that Bardo will become a future cult gem.

Reviewed by CME

Track­list:

1. Bardo (3:48)
2. You Search (4:35)
3. Uprise (2:29)
4. Blood & Sand (4:50)
5. Fire Dan­cing (3:48)
6. For Faith (4.09)
7. 25 (4:24)
8. Col­lapse (3:22)
9. Ideal (5:28)
10. Sun­set (4:54)
11. You Search (bonus track) (5:08)

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