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Jethro Tull – RökFlöte Review

Credit where it is due for Jethro Tull, they must have acknowledged how embarrassing the serious Nordic imagery could have been. Slapping a flute atop the likes of stories around Ymir and all the other alleged Gods of old does for the band what it does for everyone else. Very little. Another legacy act rallies for a collection of tracks inspired by what the elders believe is still cool. Nordic Gods are not, as RökFlöte hopes, very cool. Not when taken so seriously and applied to the fabric of this album, anyway. At least it feels genuine, and where Jethro Tull has their energy, Ian Anderson’s flute and vocal-led conjuring are a weak scattershot of upbeat progressive rock. Tonal inconsistencies were warned of through the singles, and here they are throughout the album.  

Atmospheric terror Voluspo, presumably a botched translation of the poem, Völuspá, opens up with clear Nordic tones in tow. Where the Prose Edda is used to prop up a folkier tone, it also gives an impressive opener. Instrumentally sound and marching on through after a brief excerpt is nice enough. It is soon lost to the flute-heavy slams of Allfather, a weakly-written track that attempts to utilise what Jethro Tull is remembered for at its core. Lyrics that are delivered with the pace of an early Tom Tom Club single see Anderson shore up the Nordic feel and appeal the same way over and over again. Heavy drums and a brief guitar break that wrap around flute direction make for, at best, tracks that sound like menu music to a video game from the mid-2000s.   

Consistently troubled and uninspired lyrics are the issue here. Wolf Unchained boasts a heavy dose of nice electric guitar but sharp teeth and trickery on the tip of Anderson’s tongue are troubling, empty offerings. No worse is it than on Hammer on Hammer, its Cold War confusion is not a showcase of lacking historical knowledge but a confirmation that Jethro Tull, for all their presence in the here and now, cannot march forward any further than the 1980s. The Perfect One dribbles out thoughts on fatal friends and fatal attractions, listing off a collection of names Anderson believes will strike fear. His delivery is still in style with the best of his works, but it lacks conviction. His harsh guitar parallels are nothing to the light and vaguely unserious tone these tracks take. Pick a lane. For now, and forever, RökFlöte is an abysmally measured project.  

Hauling up and rinsing the Nordic tones with filler music is no way to go. Trickster (And the Mistletoe) is as empty as it is hopefully elusive to the point where Anderson can make something of the title. He cannot. Following the same beat and tempo, RökFlöte ends itself in a similar place as stock tracks used to deaden white noise in medieval movies with a shoestring budget. No charm or ample lushness to the setting Jethro Tull hopes to create, Cornucopia is the best example, its gospel music-like introduction a shallow piece that, while understanding the Nordic influence, does not make much of it. None of RökFlöte does, and it is no surprise. Coma-inducing dullness rattles off with flute-heavy leads that end up sounding like license-free elvish wedding music from some middling-budget medieval flick from forty years ago, as Guardian’s Watch finds.

Ewan Gleadow
Ewan Gleadow
Editor in Chief at Cult Following | News and culture journalist at Clapper, Daily Star, NewcastleWorld, Daily Mirror | Podcast host of (Don't) Listen to This | Disaster magnet

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