• Germany's best contemporary band reconquers the folk rock throne - A review of In Extremo's ''Quid pro Quo''

    In Extremo - Quid pro Quo (2016)

    German medieval rock pioneers In Extremo are back with a brand new studio album in the twenty-first year of its revolutionary career. Quid pro Quo manages to be one of In Extremo's heaviest records ever and to go back to the band's early folk tales in foreign languages at the same time. The septet also found a lyrical balance between serious topics, light-hearted texts and authentic cultural components. The band still tries out new things after the modern and mellow predecessor Kunstraub which only included songs performed in German. In Extremo sound fresher than ever.

    The sinister title song ''Quid pro Quo'' criticizes consumerism in our modern society where people only tend to take but never care to give. This topic is indeed very present these days in times of cases of corruption, economic crises and the hard life of refugees. Low vocals, industrial metal riffs and liberating gang shouts add some anger to this short yet meaningful song. A real highlight among the more serious tracks is the progressive ''Lieb Vaterland, magst ruhig sein'' which tells the story of an unnamed soldier who goes to war for his unnamed country as a teenager only to waste his life for nothing at all. This topic might both refer to the past lived by ancestors of the band members but also to the present where human lives are wasted for debatable ideologies. The song starts like an epic Irish folk tune with a heartbreaking melancholic touch. When young children start to sing the chorus, you can't help but feel shivers running down your spine. The track ends with the haunting sound of an air raid siren and a heavy instrumental passage that isn't a far call from thrash metal. This tune is clearly my favorite on an outstanding album. It's also one of the best tracks of the year and probably the most beautiful, creative and meaningful song performed in German since a while. Old and new fans of In Extremo could probably agree that this is an instant classic and one of the band's greatest tunes.

    As I mentioned before, this album also includes more folk tales than the last one. The most outstanding track is probably the joyous Estonian folk tale ''Pikse Palve'' which is completely acoustic with mandolin sounds, thunderous percussive elements, rough lead vocals and liberating gang shouts before the final instrumental part becomes increasingly heavier. This outstanding would have had its righteous place on classic records like Weckt die Toten! and Verehrt und angespien. Another song that stands out in this category is the famous Russian folk tale ''Черный ворон'' that starts with the sounds of a raven, some humming and melancholic lead vocals before the songs gets an epic touch thanks to the participation of an authentic Russian Cossacks choir.

    While the last record didn't feature any guest vocalists, Quid pro Quo comes around with a handful of collaborations aside of the aforementioned children and Cossacks choirs. Blind Guardian's Hansi Kürsch participates in the liberating party anthem ''Roter Stern'' that also features the Cossacks choir and underlines the German-Russian friendship which is very important to the band. ''Flaschengeist'' starts like an exotic Middle Eastern folk rock song with a slightly menacing tone that almost explodes in the middle part when German metalcore band Heaven Shall Burn takes over with some fierce riffs and harsh vocals. Somehow, this mixture of harmonious folk melodies and brutal metal passages works extremely well in this tune and turns out being one of In Extremo's most successful experiments on this record.

    Those who are looking for more light-hearted party anthems should look right at the beginning and at the end of this extraordinary record. The upbeat opener ''Störtebeker'' refers to a famous medieval privateer and the band indeed describes itself humorously as a gang of pirates that takes a lot of risks but shares everything at the end of the day. In a certain way, this catchy opener is not only the new band anthem but also a statement that proves that people can act differently from what is described in the title song. The record later on closes with the joyous Irish folk anthem ''Sternhagelvoll'' that simply talks about a long night at your local pub. This song spreads so much joy that it's infectious and this is why this song was chosen as first single. I can also highly recommend the video clips to both ''Sternhagelvoll' and ''Störtebeker'' which are easily among the very best in the band's long career.

    The new album exists in several versions. The deluxe edition features three additional tracks which are quite good but not as excellent as some of the material on the regular record. There also exists a limited box set with an additional acoustic live record, a vinyl single as well as a poster, post cards and a sticker. Faithful fans should go for one of these limited editions while regular, occasional or new fans can stick to the regular version.

    In the end, Quid pro Quo is one of In Extremo's very best records. It's perfectly balanced, always creative and entertaining and represents everything this band stands for. If you're not a fan of the band yet, this album is the perfect occasion for you to fall in love with what I consider Germany's best contemporary band.

    Final verdict: 87%

    « Germany's best contemporary band reconquers the folk rock throne - A review of In Extremo's ''Quid pro Quo''Meine Reise durch Québec: Tag eins - von Gatineau nach Lebel-sur-Quévillon »
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