Romuvos - The Baltic Crusade review

Bandcamp music player

13 users:
Band: Romuvos
Album: The Baltic Crusade
Release date: June 2020

01. Saule 1236
02. Memel 1257
03. Skuodas 1259
04. Durbe 1260
05. Pokarwis 1261
06. The Baltic Crusade
07. Lubawa 1263
08. Karuse 1270
09. Aizkraukle 1279

2020 is not going well for you. No, shut up, I know it isn't. You need to escape to a simpler time, a happier time, when men were real men, women were real women, and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were various Catholic military orders were waging war on the Baltic pagans to mixed success.*

You can ask me about the numerical Crusades and some of the lesser Southern European ones, since that's what I learned about at the university (not that I guarantee I'll remember my lectures), but most of what I know about crusades in the Baltic region I learned from Skyforger, and I don't really listen to Skyforger, so I'm relying on Romuvos to fill in some of those gaps. I know enough to say that, broadly, the "Baltic Crusade" was a wide-ranging, long-lasting, and perplexingly multifarious series of religious, ethnic, and political conflicts that entailed various Christian nations and military societies waging what might flatteringly be called "holy wars" against the native inhabitants of lands stretching from Prussia to Estonia, the final push in Christianizing Europe during the medieval era. Romuvos, hailing from Lithuania, are concerned with that portion of this pan-European imbrutement known as the Lithuanian Crusade. They have quite helpfully broken up The Baltic Crusade into a series of tracks focused on individual battles spanning the period from 1236 to 1279, with the years provided in parentheses.

Fittingly for such a martial subject crucial to national history, Romuvos appear to take inspiration from classic Bathory and Turisas; The Baltic Crusade combines that recognizable epic, cantering black metal rhythm and texture with a more overtly melodic and folk-inspired series of hooks. The charismatic opener, "Saule (1236)", sounds like the result of a band being locked in a room for a year with Blood Fire Death and The Varangian Way on repeat, and that impression lingers for the next several songs. Vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Velnias - until now, the only member of the band - farms his deep, rich tone for maximum utility; he sings bold, clear notes without vibrato, purposeful intonations in resonant harmony with himself, and then layers his voice for backing vocals that resemble a multitudinous host of soldiers chanting behind him. Velnias wields a warm, earthy tone that brings to mind the rusting armor plates and hoof-packed earth of lost battlefields.

Pipes, nyckelharpa, and jawharp echo over valleys founded on blackened riffs and avalanche-like drum fills; an airy but pure lead guitar tone replicates the folky melodies while simple riffs, a mix of minor chords and distorted battering rams, hold the rhythm underneath. Now and then, unearthly keys dip in for "ancient unfinished business" effect. For Romuvos's first album as a full band, The Baltic Crusade sounds very tight and comfortable in its range of sounds.

To some listeners, however, the tumbling rhythm, conservative riffs, and choral gasconades might grow tedious over the course of an hour; while the album is bedecked with layers of instrumentation and attractive production, most of the songs are extensions of the same essential idea. After several initial tracks that thrive on the novelty of the sound, the album drags on without improving on those fundamental elements or introducing any new ones. It took me a few tries to make it all the way to the end of The Baltic Crusade simply because I'd lose interest after about the halfway point; if I let my mind wander and then start paying attention again, I wonder whether the album restarted without my permission. Until now, I've avoided the obvious comparison to Heidevolk that the lead vocal harmonies are begging for, but I think Romuvos is sliding itself into the same bracket where I place their Dutch compatriots: they have a very appealing, even pleasant sound that I could see myself returning to for a certain ambiance, which Romuvos creates skillfully, but the songwriting leaves something to be desired beyond a few standouts, and I may find myself more inclined to revisit Bathory or Turisas instead.

*Like so many other Crusades, the tide continually reversed its course in the Baltic Crusade over the years, with the ultimate result that Lithuania is now 75% Hindu, as we all know.

Rating breakdown
Performance: 8
Songwriting: 6
Originality: 5
Production: 8


Written on 04.07.2020 by I'm the reviewer, and that means my opinion is correct.


Comments: 4   Visited by: 56 users
04.07.2020 - 10:01
Bad English
Tage Westerlund
I will listen this one. All song tittles are Battle places in latvia, lietuva and old prussisa, what lost their language in 17th century. Lietuva becaim Christian, so no major cruside was there but only to latvia and Estonia,
Life is to short for LOVE, there is many great things to do online !!!

Stormtroopers of Death - ''Speak English or Die''

I better die, because I never will learn speek english, so I choose dieing
04.07.2020 - 10:29
You arent a real folk metal listener unless you tried to reform the Romuva religion in Crusader Kings II
Do you think if the heart keeps on shrinking
One day there will be no heart at all?

2021 goodies
04.07.2020 - 22:58

You got me because they take "inspiration from classic Bathory and Turisas", and I don't regret it, I really enjoyed the album
Be more like Funriz
04.07.2020 - 23:02

Love the Douglas Adams reference.

Hits total: 1361 | This month: 21