Excelsis - Kurt of Koppigen
Shark Records
Epic Viking and Folk Metal
13 songs (67'00)
Release year: 1998
Shark Records
Reviewed by Ben
Archive review

Excelsis may be familiar to some of you out there, they had their song Dragonslayer on the Unification cd by Iron Savior back in 1999. I remember hearing the song and thinking “Hey, these guys sound like they’re pretty good, I’ll have to check them out.” But seeing as how all of Excelsis’ albums are hard as hell to find (you try hunting down the debut), laziness prevailed and after a year of avidly searching for their albums, they were relegated to "I'll keep an eye out for em" status and it wasn’t until six years later when I finally found this, Kurt of Koppigen.

The music contained here is very unique, it took me a while to finally nail it down. Imagine a more powerful version of Wuthering Height’s latest offering, a hint of Summoning, mix that with Viking Metal era Bathory and add just a splash of Blind Guardian and then you have what makes up Excelsis. Hell, even the vocalist sounds like a cross between Quorthon and Hansi Kursch. There aren’t too many fast speedy Power Metal tracks, in fact, I wouldn’t even like to pigeonhole this release as Power Metal in general. Nothing is at all typical of any sort of Power Metal element, no double bass, the vocals are a rough, low roar, and there aren’t any five minute double harmony solos to found. Instead there are mid tempo epics, with heavy doomy riffs and intricate vocal melodies combined with folk elements and some songs that remind you of a poor Renaissance fair. And I mean that in a good way, in the sense that instead of a huge feasting hall of a bunch of rich royalty, you can see in your head a group of a dozen or so peasants gathered around a meager campfire.

Personal song favorites include the aforementioned Dragonslayer. This is the most direct song, it is the most easily accessible and one that identifies the style of the band quite readily. Great vocals, superb riffs, a slow melancholic chanting section, yep, this is a perfect song to showcase the many facets of Excelsis. Song of Agnes is a medieval ballad, that puts Rhapsody to shame. Instead of imagining a skinny white guy in a flowery purple shirt I see a huge blood stained Viking, with a beard that comes down to his chest and it’s filled with mead as he sings this lament. A very simple melody that is accompanied by Beyeler’s voice and the only time any other musical instruments come into the fray is during the chorus with some well placed chords, a few bass notes and some rich backing vocals, all followed by a bad ass solo. Ambush in Langenthal is a raging battle hymn, and Distant Sky or the Wild Hunt is a typical Excelsis epic. The chorus here is where the Bathory comparisons are justified, it just sounds so much like the overall feel of the Blood on Ice album. (that’s a good thing by the way) Everything goes out the window though for the twelve minute long Baphomet’s Oath or Just a Dream. This has it all, fast moments, slow passages, memorable melodies, and choirs in abundance. A fitting close to the cd seeing as the two “bonus tracks” are nothing more than farm animal noises.

I am wondering why Excelsis are not on a real record label because Kurt of Koppigen is most definitely one of the more original, unique, and fine records that I have heard in recent times. Add this to the fact that this was released in 1998, before the deluge of Power Metal and folkish acts, it is more and more strange that they are not more recognized than they are. I highly recommend this album, and you would do well to check Excelsis out. Fans of Bathory, Summoning, and Wuthering Heights, this is right up your alley.

Killing Songs :
Dragonslayer, Ambush in Langenthal, Song of Agnes
Ben quoted 87 / 100
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