FAIRYTALE – Autumn’s Crown (Magic Mile Music, MMM41112)

Autumn's CrownGerman folk-rockers Fairytale cunningly release their second album, Autumn’s Crown, as the first signs of seasonal change appear. Having already secured the support of some of Ireland’s biggest musical names, this follow-up to 2015’s Forest Of Summer is clearly aiming for wider UK recognition.

Singer-songwriter Oliver Oppermann (guitars, mandolins, Irish bouzoukis, vocals) is the band’s Svengali, although he modestly tucks himself away in the middle of the cd booklet, along with mono-syllabic cellist, Moon. Cover duties instead fall to the glamorously ringleted and mediaevally-garbed Laura Isabel Biastoch (vocals) and Berit Coenders (violin,viola,vocals). Let’s pause briefly at the cover art and wonder who felt this soft-focus Robin Hood look was just what the band needed.

Undeniably, there’s some very fine musicianship on offer, Coenders and Oppermann in particular are skilful manipulators of their instruments. Oppermann’s sympathy for and understanding of the Irish tradition is plainly demonstrated in ‘Mushroom Foray’ and album closer, the homage ‘Donegal’ (he acknowledges Manus Lunny’s tuition in the sleeve notes).

Those lyrics, though. The English-language songs tend towards a fantasy-by-numbers of mystical woods and waters, runic magic and elves. In ‘As Old As Time’ words sit heavily on a slim melody. For this listener’s tastes at least, it’s all a bit incense-smoky, too much fey and whimsy, over-reliant on ritualistic chanting to lend atmosphere.

Interestingly, the two songs in German are among the best here, perhaps because they lack that twee sentimentality. The dervish moonlight waltz of ghostly dancers in ‘Wassergeister’ and the powerful death-lure of ‘Am Weiher’ both invoke the dark mystery of water.

That said, there are some interesting ideas that work well, like the chanted chorus of ‘Waterfall’ and the acoustic rock of ‘The Dark Elves’ with added crows rising over Moon’s dark cello. ‘Living In The Wood’ and the skipping ‘Mando Dance’ have solidly folk roots and the poppish ‘Moonway’ might appeal to fans of Sally Oldfield’s ‘Moonlight Shadow’.

With tight harmonies and spacious production, there’s room to hear every part of the carefully-constructed soundscape. And it does feel like a construct: slick, contrived even. It would be instructive to see them live to try to understand them better and perhaps find the heart in their music.
Su O’Brien

Artist website: www.fairytale-folkmusic.de

‘Autumn’s Crown’ – official video: