In the mid-80's a group of travelling minstrels playing bag-pipes formed and named their group Corvus Corax
(The Raven). The band consists currently of eight members that still love to dress in various styles of medieval minstrel garb and living the life of ages long past. They formed in the old part of eastern Germany and have founded their career on travelling and playing live all over Europe. Like the minstrels of old, they travel from one area to another picking up on the various musical styles and folk elements. Over these years the career of this group includes numberless live performances. They've performed all over Europe and travel from place to place. But the have also entered the studio a number of times for their music to reach audiences worldwide. The result is fifteen CD releases, a DVD and now a "Best Of" work licensed from PICA records for release on the North American label Noir Records
Fans of bagpipe music whether it be traditional celtic, german folk, Scottish or other types of traditional music will love this band. They have five bag-pipe players and three percussionists for a full and dynamic sound. The group tries to stay true to the medieval styles and instruments and have spent countless hours researching and creating their instruments, music, clothing and performances. However, they have also ventured into the 20th and 21st century with their side-project Tanzwut
mixing techno and rock elements. Regardless, their project of Corvus Corax
remains true as they continue to perform and create music.
I first became acquainted with this group several years ago through some compilations and their awesome version of "Saltarello". Many readers and Gothic Paradise listeners will be familiar with the Dead Can Dance
version which appears on their popular album A Passage In Time
. Corvus Corax
takes this song to a whole new level of driving percussion and powerful bagpipes. This song captured my attention and made me an instant fan and since then I've been picking up material as I've found it. With the North American release of this "Best Of" album on Noir Records
it's a chance for a large new audience to become familiar with this awesome group. Listeners can also hear selections on the Gothic Paradise radio shows.
Best of Corvus Corax - Review
When a band like this comes along it's sometimes discouraging to realize they've been around for so many years and we're just discovering them. So it's always nice when a label like Noir Records
licenses a release like this "Best Of" album.
It contains 11 studio tracks from nine albums spanning just over a decade. Two live tracks are included from two live previously released live albums and the CD also contains a special bonus live performance video.
Without doing some in-depth research on each track, it's hard to tell how many are original compositions derived from historic research by this group. While I think they put a lot of emphasis on just creating great fun music as witnessed by watching videos of their live performances, I think it's also evident they put a lot of effort into the authenticity of the music composed. What we're left with on this album is a number of great selections from their past works that we can all enjoy.
Several classic tracks that are performed by many bands that create music in medieval-related genres like Qntal
and The Soil Bleeds Black
are included here. These include a rather fast-paced version of "in taberna" and a harsh and powerful version of "Palastinalied". This album also includes a powerful live version of the popular track "Saltarello" which is a great recording and shows the enthusiasm the band and crowd have for this music.
A favorite on this album is the dance-friendly track "avanti". This selection caught my attention the first time I heard it with the echoing bag-pipes and moving rhythm provided by various instruments and the percussion. "La Douce" is another along these lines where the percussion takes more of a prominent role in the music and moves the music along while the bag-pipes and other instruments providing a melodic approach to the music. Aside from these and a few other select tracks, much of the music is quite fast-paced and quite intense with all of the pipes and driving beats. It's almost like medieval punk, if you can picture that with a grin. That's when you realize that this group probably puts a lot of emphasis on just having fun with their music.
With those thoughts in mind, the listener can take this approach when putting on this album and can really enjoy it. The listener probably has to take it with a grain of salt and certainly not too seriously. As a fan of many styles of medieval music, whether it be neo-classical, bombastic or other varieties, I've really had a lot of fun enjoying and listening to this album. This "Best Of" is a great way to become familiar with this group. And if you find you like it, it's probably worth going back in their discography and picking up some other items from their catalog. But more than anything, after seeing various video clips including the awesome clip of "Chou Chou Sheng" on this CD, if you have a chance to see these minstrals perform live, you don't want to miss it!
North American Label: Noir Records (Dancing Ferret Discs sub-label)
European Label: PICA Records