Review: Feuerschwanz – ‘Fegefeuer’

Whilst not entirely as full-on as the often-quoted passage in Corinthians 13:11 about becoming a man and putting childish things away, since signing with Napalm Records in 2019 German folk metal outfit Feuerschwanz have performed a gradual move away from the more comedic elements of their music, and gone full throttle folk metal, while still retaining their sense of humour. Released prior to the move to Napalm, 2018’s ‘Methämmer’ was a hint of what was to come, but with the might of Austria’s finest behind them, Feuerschwanz in 2023 is an altogether proposition than the early days which saw frontman Hauptmann Feuerschwanz forming the band as a parody of the humorless medieval scene in Germany. And with the imminent release of ‘Fegefeuer’ (translated as Purgatory in English) – their third album for Napalm Records in three years – it’s fair to say that Feuerschwanz have found their sound.

After the success of ‘Das Elfte Gebot’ in 2020, and ‘Memento Mori’ which hit the number-one spot in the German album charts in 2021, Feuerschwanz have gathered up an almighty head of steam. And with a hugely successful headlining tour and high-profile slots at festivals such as Wacken Open Air, and Summer Breeze behind them, the runaway train hurtling down the tracks shows zero sign of slowing down. Insanely entertaining and fun live – a Feuerschwanz gig is less like a traditional gig and more like a cèilidh, on Hogmanay, at Wacken – the recent challenge has been to reproduce that live sensation in a studio setting, and ‘Fegefeuer’ certainly does that.

Steeped in the fantasy world that Feuerschwanz calls home, ‘Fegefeuer’ doesn’t stray too far from the tried and trusted paths that have served the band well over the last four or five years. Opening track ‘SGFRD Dragonslayer’ deals lyrically with Siegfried Dragonslayer, a mythical German hero that slays a dragon and bathes in the dragon’s magic blood which makes him invincible.  Perfect subject matter for Feuerschwanz, and as you would expect, is a bombastic opening track packed with so many familiar Feuerschwanz-isms such as the trademark co-vocals between Hauptmann (Peter Henrici) and Hodi (Prince R. Hodenherz III aka Ben Metzner), massive vocal hooks throughout, and the nailed-on riffage of Hans Platz.

‘Bastard von Asgard’, which features Fabienne Erni of Eluveitie and Illumishade on guest vocals, begins with a tip of the hat to Iron Maiden via Platz’s melodic guitar riffs, and then the traditional instruments kick in and give the song a bit of a jig-like feel. The utterly charming Erni does what she does best and steals the show with her amazing vocal range. Pacey and with fantastic musicianship from all involved (especially the immaculate drum work from Rollo), the end result is great fun. The pipe-work (bagpipes and Uilean) from Hodi is at the forefront of ‘Berzerkermode’ (as it is later on during the riotous pair of ‘Highlander’ and ‘Morrigan’), which is as full-on as the title suggests and features a brief foray into the English language where the band implores you to “Party like a Viking…”. The beer-hall gang vocals are huge and impossible to resist singing along to, as they are on ‘Knochenkarussell’ which has some killer arrangements, and at times during the musical segments, could be a metalized version of the famous Last of The Mohicans theme ‘Promentory ‘ which in turn is an orchestration of ‘The Gael’ by Scottish singer-songwriter Dougie MacLean.

Every band has its secret weapon, and Feuerschwanz has two: guitarist Hans Platz makes enough noise for a triple-guitar axe attack and lays down some gorgeous guitar tones, and then there are the immeasurable violin and hurdy-gurdy talents of Johanna von der Vögelweide (Stephanie Pracht). The latter especially makes her mark on the title track (and the jaunty ‘Morrigan’) which features everything bar the kitchen sink…stirring pipes, death metal growls, clean vocals, a galloping bouncy pace, and gorgeous, haunting violin strains as the song pauses for breath midway through. Does it matter that Feuerschwanz sings in their native German? Not at all. A hook is a hook regardless of the language, and Feuerschwanz has hooks at every turn. Try not to bounce along to the title track (and ‘Die Horde’) as you make a feeble attempt at the lyrics – impossible. With its slow, sludgy pacing, ‘Uruk-Hai’ is going to be insane when played live and necks will be given a real workout thanks to the tribal drumming, thick basslines (courtesy of Jarne), and the grand, epic scale of the entire four minutes that the song lasts. Likewise, ‘Eis & Feuer’ packs an almighty punch to go along with the catchy vocal hooks. Metal to the core.

Ending on the hugely uplifting, and quite commercial ‘Valkyren’, which features another noteworthy performance from Johanna von der Vögelweide, ‘Fegefeuer’ proves that lightning can strike in the same place not twice, but three times. While it would be fantastic to see Feuerschwanz (completed by the feisty pair of performers Myu, and Musch Musch) live in the UK  – ideally at Bloodstock Open Air, and some regional shows – logistics, and costs would mean that it wouldn’t be the entire impressive production that blitzed retinas in Germany earlier this year. To live that experience in person, get a cheap Ryanair flight to Germany next April and worry about how you will get home once you awaken after one of the best gig experiences that you could ever have.

‘Fegefeuer’ is available via Napalm Records on July 21st, more information here.

Review – Dave

Photo Credit: Stefan Heilemann


Festivals 2023
22.07.23 DE – Bückeburg / MPS
10.08.23 ES – Villena / Leyendas Del Rock
19.08.23 DE – Weil Am Rhein / MPS
26.08.23 DE – Wuppertal / Feuertal Festival
02.09.23 DE – Luhmühlen / MPS

Fegefeuer Tour 2024
w/ Orden Ogan, Angus McSix
11.04.24 DE – Hamburg / Große Freiheit 36
12.04.24 DE – Berlin / Huxleys
13.04.24 DE – Dresden / Alter Schlachthof
18.04.24 DE – Saarbrücken / Garage
19.04.24 DE – Erfurt / Club Central
26.04.24 DE – Hannover / Capitol
27.04.24 DE – Osnabrück / Hyde Park
01.05.24 DE – Nürnberg / Löwensaal
02.05.24 DE – Stuttgart / LKA Longhorn
03.05.24 DE – Wiesbaden / Schlachthof
04.05.24 DE – Köln / Palladium
06.12.24 AT – Wien / Arena


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