The realm of alternative music is somewhat of a shapeshifter – bands and artists go through phases influenced by fans and, sometimes, the dreaded gatekeepers of the alternative music communities. Other times, changes are forced upon them by profit initiatives of the record companies. Such would not be the case for the very seasoned, and even more transformative Danish group, Parzival, whose change and rebirth has been a product of their passion… or at the very least, intense musical nerdiness. The band has been on the scene since 1999, blending metal, neo-folk, industrial, and EBM. Here, we arrive at the band’s eighth album, The Golden Bough, which out of the context of the group’s discography, is still fascinating as a standalone production. However, in context, it fits perfectly with some of the band’s earlier folk-inspired albums like Anathema Marathana and Casta. On the other hand, many of Parzival’s releases hearken back to industrial roots, sometimes reintroduced as EBM and modern, more crossover industrial styles like in the 2011 Uhreimat album. The Golden Bough does an excellent job of reeling in all the former non-industrial productions and putting them into the next logical step, feeling like a raw, almost unedited acoustic interpretation of metal. But further into the track list, it begins to feel more fully fleshed out as more elements are built into the cinematic core. The first track, “Tumbling Down” opens with a riff that sounds surprisingly like something out of ‘70s Americana, almost like a Tom Petty or Bruce Springsteen stock chord. Luckily, this sound is quickly met with a warmer, more atmospheric body that cradles the low, gravel-throated vocals of Dimitrij Babelvskj. The Golden Bough is an incredibly cohesive album that incorporates all the drama of an orchestral piece, all the melancholy of later goth and post-punk, but also with some very exaggerated flavors of medieval and neo-classical metal – Parzival is good at this. The use of strings, haunting choirs, acoustic guitar, deep foreboding vocals mixed with touches of piano, electric guitar, and bells create a warmly theatrical mood, which is present in every track. The title track fits perfectly with the theme, and although it’s not the most representative of it, it does lack a sense of drama. Still, there is no point at which any element steps out of place. In light of all of Parzival’s output throughout the years, this was an impressive release that cut away all of the hokey, tabletop adventure game aspects of the music that can sometimes be unavoidable in this genre. If you’re a very specific, very technical type of folk-metal nerd and simultaneously a rivethead, but also somehow an EDM club goth, check out Parzival’s discography; but if you’re anyone else who just likes good, well produced alternative/metal, check out The Golden Bough.