Avven is an altered version of the Welsh word "Awen" which means "poetic inspiration". The Slovenian alphabet has no w, thus the band decided to use two v's instead.
In light of their rejection of everything Western, the band members call their style of music "Rock of the East". In practice they deal with Folk metal/rock sung in Slovenian, in English on a couple of songs or recurring to both of them in one of the tracks of the album in object. As to the lyrics, they touch fantasy, romance, mythology, nature and tragic love, and the Slovenian language sounds appropriate, kind of like a mix between Russian, Czech along with tiny Balkanian influences but in a nice way, far from the ungraced language of the gypsies infesting that area.
The band began its journey in 2003 as a three-piece (Anam, Galvin and Ierlath) and focused on creating their own authorial music right from the start. After some changes in number of band performers, the group eventually remained stable, numbering 7 members: Ierlath, Anam, Joc, Evelyn, Morrigan, Aillan and Galvin.
Evelyn left the band in 2010, right before the release of the band's second studio album. Soon after her departure, Anej Ivanuša joined in and brought new dimensions to the band's sound. In 2011, Joc left the band due to personal reasons and was replaced with the young Peter Dimnik.
Yet, contrarily to their attitude of refusal to Western culture, the members' nicknames are mostly in Irish Gaelic. Their meanings are as follows:
Ierlath: Bear's Paw
Aillan: Raging beast
Their music often requires the intervention of a flute, a trumpet and a harmonica, as is the case of compositions with delicate female vocals, slightly Gothic keyboards lines, such as in the bittersweet "Ros". On one occasion a cello guest player is present, too. Sometimes powerful songs like "Zmaji" deploy a violin, a tin whistle and an accordion and the joy is opposed to the melancholy delivered by the trumpet bars.
A refined and elegant dream, "Nuala", probably displays the best synergy between female and male vocals; the latter are delicate, too and there's a layer of Gregorian vocals and female ones on the background added, enriched by violin notes full of passion, an acoustic guitar that makes you hope this magic atmosphere would never come to an end. Fabulous!
The neck-shaking "Vvile" contains an involving riff together with a Peruvian flute (!) and together with the sad violin is one of the highlights of the record among the tight tracks. An addition of beauty is also supplied by the drum work, clean, fast and detail-embellishing when necessary; the dual vocals and the keys complete the picture floating from modern to rural landviews.
"Ibo" is a classical song for the Folk metal canons taking back the rhythm that all south-European and gypsy bar orchestras plays with the adding of Metal structures to incite slam-dancing, whereas the riff-oriented "Tarak" contains vocals and keyboards that remind Nightwish, as well as some Running Wild.
With "Hej Ti!" the Slovenian pack gives an example of melodic Folk metal where brutal entries make the song irresistible to any sane Metal fan, while "sPain", like the title suggests, features Spanish/Latin-American trumpets and castanets alternated with Metal parts in order not to ruin the song and keep it interesting. That's a combination that very few have tried so far as far as I'm aware!
"L.78" is one best examples of top-notch arranging. The main singer, Anam, has always been melodic and the music has never been as extreme as Ensiferum or Finntroll; on top of that the usage of clean vocals from beginning to end has risen comparisons with Folkearth's vocalist, still on this occasion the vocal intensity surprisingly reminds me of a few Moonspell's songs.
The start of "Tornach" sends us back to Renaissance tunes, but soon after the Metal parts arrive and this time the violinist isn't going to achieve a nostalgic effect but more of a romantic one, and the intense interplay of lyrics and vocal flavors is a confirmation to my impression. This is also the track with the fastest drumwork, and, to make things more complex, the Peruvian wind instrument is accompanied by a digeridoo and Middle-eastern vocals in the distance just before the final Metal insert bridging to the several riffs and the amazing female and male vocals. I'm having goose-flesh and back thrills, this is the apex for Avven! If you're new to them I guess you should begin with this song rather than the opener, trust me.
To sum things up, "Kastalija" is an album composed by ten relatively short songs where all the instruments are professionally recorded, keeping the bass and the kickdrums a bit laid back than the ideal. A cluster of tunes with a long work behind; consider that the debut was released five years before and this long period isn't explainable only by some line-up changes, but mostly by songwriting and arrangements to this highquality result.
A group of catchy songs that
should be able to conquer at least the fine palates of Korpiklaani's habitual listeners, due to the constant positive vibes perceived during the whole CD playing, even when the clean vocals and the music are aimed at urging a warrior to a body-to-body battle. And hopefully another slice of music lovers next to these sonorities.
MARKUS GANZHERRLICH - September 30, 2012