[Reviewed by stark]
Those who know me are aware of the fact that Albireon is one of my favourite neofolk bands. Not because of their technical brilliancy or their originality, but rather the emotional alliance between me and those guys. I feel like I know what is hidden in their souls, what kind of mystery or tragedy is hidden between their notes and words. And even if I stumble upon some flaw here or there in the song, it makes the music more natural, real and… humane.
On the other hand I’m not very familiar with Omne Datum Optimum. It’s a French project by Thibault Gaudunis. He has released albums for Cynfeirdd, full-lengths as well as splits with Nothvs Filivs Mortis and Gaë Bolg And The Church Of Fand. He’s more into medieval, baroque sounds; troubadours playing on the square of the Reims cathedral etc. Not a big fan of this style, but if it’s well performed and offers something more than being an exact copy of what has already been made several hundreds of years ago, then I can listen to it without gnashing my teeth.
There are eleven songs, five by Albireon, five by Omne Datum Optimum and an “Interlude” right in the middle, a joint composition by both bands. Like a theatrical play, “Fragments…” is divided in three acts. The first one is called “A Harvest Of Frostflowers” and belongs solely to Albireon.
Davide Borghi and the guys in some way offer the full spectrum of what we know and love Albireon for, starting with “The Poet And The Warrior”, a rather typical, but nice and catchy melancholic neofolk song with acoustic guitar, voice and keys. But the feeling of another one, “Tra Gli Asfodeli” brings back the beautiful yet heartbreaking times of “I Passi Di Liu”, which up to this day remains one of the most tragic and touching albums I’ve ever heard. Guitar phrases, synth backgrounds and Davide’s vocals standing in between the singing, declamation and muttering, it all takes Albireon a few steps closer to the ambient realms. The following song is also different, because thanks to the gnashing industrial background and somehow surreal atmosphere it may remind one of the other project by Davide, Ekra. There’s a connection between the fourth “Gli Equiseti” and “Tra Gli Asfodeli” as both arouse similar, bittersweet (emphasis on “bitter”) emotions. “Cerbastri” closes the first act. Two vocal manners intermingle with one another, and there’s also the sound of flute, which probably wants to prepare the listener for the upcoming Omne Datum Optimum segment.
But first, the Interlude (Act II – “The Winter Gathering”), a neofolk/medieval song with Thibault’s vocalizations and a twist at the end. A nice link between the two parts I guess.
Where Albireon pulls the strings of a contemporary being, Omne Datum Optimum goes way back in the past. It also has more illustrative properties, while Davide’s team seems to be more introverted in its characteristics. These five songs are much more catchy, you can sing them along with Thibault (or hum if you don’t know the lyrics), like “Crusaders Anthem”, triumphant yet melancholic, very close to the typical neofolk standards, but having a nice, smooth vibe. The Frenchman also uses some sort of field recordings that make the imagery clearer, like the cathedral bells in “Sanathanorium”, the sea waves in “Lament” or some unidentified hum in the aforementioned “Crusaders Anthem”. Yes, you are in the 14th or 15th century somewhere in Western Europe, travelling from town to town, hoping to settle down and start a better life.
I can’t say which part I like more. In general, Albireon is closer to my heart, but I have to admit that Omne Datum Optimum also did a swell job here, displaying songwriting skills and avoiding gothic pathos or an slide towards the opposite direction: namely digging so deep in the music of those days that it might recall some academic, archaeological finding. None of these things, it is a highly enjoyable, sad and melancholic recording.