Reviewed by Harry Kaplan
I am not sure if there was such a think as heavy metal banjo prior to my discovering Olaf Vali Duna from the Pacific Northwest. If that was not a current category, it is now. Olaf does things with the banjo that I have never seen or heard before. He plays it hard and fast and he gets it to make sounds that have never before been heard by human ears. It is quite powerful. Some of the songs are so twangy and fast, it actually sounds like a sitar.
I do not normally review albums that are over a year old but Roaming Kindred is so powerful and original that I decided to bend the rules a bit. Hey, I make the rules and I break the rules. In this case, the bending of a little rule is very much warranted.
Roaming Kindred is a collection of 14 tracks that are not your standard bluegrass songs that clock in at roughly two and a half minutes. In fact the title track (Track 9) clocks in at a hefty 11 and a half minutes. Normally, that would seem like about nine minutes too long. In this instance, it works really well. Olaf’s pleasant voice with a bit of rasp is perfect for the magical banjo playing. There also seems to be a heavy Celtic influence on this track.
Olaf must have also channeled Freddie Mercury because Gebo (Track 5) sounds like a cross between Earl Scruggs, Iron Maiden, and Queen. Even though this is just vocals and banjos, the sound is rich and full and other accompaniments are not missed. Olaf could have sung heavy metal if he wanted to. His voice definitely has the strength and vocal range to pull that off as well.
Roaming Kindred is not just a great listen. It is innovative and somewhat groundbreaking, being able to fuse genres that are never linked together. The sound with just banjo and voice is very full and complete. I still wonder what the sound would be like with a full band. Maybe my question will be answered on Olaf’s follow up. Until then, enjoy the sounds of Roaming Kindred.