Where do you draw a line between a copy-cat and a tribute? Can tribute bands be any good? Vietah from Belarus can answer all your questions.
One-man bands are no new phenomenon in black metal. Neither is the wildly varying quality of material that’s been put out over they years under banners of such projects. Although they get picked on easily, which many of the poorest bands deserve on all accounts, bad music isn’t exclusive to one-man-bands. Over the years, some projects, most notably the likes of Blut aus Nord and Burzum, have gained a fair share of fame and notoriety. Which brings us to Vietah – a Belarussian one-man-band strongly influenced by the latter.
A quick search-engine shuffle would reveal that the first of Antarctis’ records was put out in 2008, and even the latest is a couple of years old – so what makes this topical right now? I Hate Records putting out re-releases of all four record on wax, that’s what. And because they are kind people, whom despite their hatred towards said format, keep working tirelessly for the happiness of strangers. You’re going to sit down in your comfy chair, fresh out of the carpenter’s, pour yourself a glass of dark malt, and buy all of them.
The first, Zorny Maroz, is about as close to Hvis Lyset Tar Oss as humanly possible. Though it repeats the structures and ideas of it’s paragon, it achieves neither the frenzy nor the atmosphere. You’ll find mid-tempo riffs, repetition, keyboard created atmosphere and desperation interpreted with the artists native language, even though Antarctis’ dry shouts are hardly as emotional as Varg’s shrill cries. The Belarussian lyrics stick out giving Zorny Maroz at least some unique, desperately required flavour.
While hints of slavic melancholy, dabbling in Dungeon Synth-ish ambient and occasional burst of energy dot the landscape the shadow of Burzum looms over, and Antarctis isn’t even trying to deny it. No doubt the obvious inspiration will grate some, but I find this, very specific, kind of atmospheric black metal could afford to be copied a little more often – We aren’t exactly talking about a genre known for it’s originality. I find myself enjoying Vietah’s debut, even though it’s overwrought and lengthy, time and time again, regardless of the fact it’s no prize winner.
Smalisty Žahin, does not stray far from it’s roots, but it does display an actual identity beyond a tribute to an insane demi-hermit. With a firmer grasp on his instrument, butched up sound and a harsher growl Antarctis takes a firm step forward on his sophomore.
Lengthy, mid-tempo pieces are at the forefront again, and opener “Zmjarćvielyja Krajavidy Praz Smaljany Pozirk Krumkacza” is as much a pastiche as anything off of Zorny Maroz was, but the title-tracks extra speed and “Vosieńskija Spadarožniki Ū Noczia’s” largely ambient approach break the monotony, giving Smalisty Žahin a little more varied face than it’s predecessor had. Though now that there is variation, it only makes me crave for more wake up calls for this record. Further underlined by the poor placing of the cover of Darkthrone’s “Quintessence” at the very end.
A step forward and towards a new style, it’s more consistent than Zorny Maroz – but apart from a couple of songs, I preferred the debut.
On Tajemstvy Noczy, the influence has mostly worn off. Still unhurried and atmospheric, but largely lacking the keyboard presence, replaced with a more dynamic, and original, sound.
Four long, dark song full of melancholy, yet defiant – Vietah has not only stripped down the Burzum influence but also moved it from Hvis Lyset Tar Oss to Filosofem. Tajemstvy Noczy is likely the most independent release, where each single riff and melody is stronger by it’s own, to a point where Antarctis obvious emphasis on the collective atmosphere and wholeness is nearing annoying, the contents sometimes suffering from lack of attention and persona.
However, the compositions include no idle moments and despite the recycling of ideas, they glide on effortlessly with regards to the ever-so-accidentally folk-ish melodies and clear soundscape. Though not as multi-faceted as Smalisty Žahin, Tajemstvy Noczy is it’s superior in practically every way and makes Vietah a band of it’s own.
On Czornja Cvil, Vietah took it’s sound towards a darker, ghastly territory. More muggy and sultry than before and each of the songs comes to it’s own, not just a cog in the machine. Opener “Vosieńskaja Glieba” takes a sluggish pace, while “Kol” ranks among the fastest songs Antarctis has put to tape. “Adljustravanni ū czornaj vadzie’s” rough, rugged and atmospheric approach makes me sorely miss the keyboards from Zorny Maroz, the sparse guitar melodies being all that’s on offer, but “Niezvarotnasćin” plaintive surge scores for it’s awkward kid brother.
Czornaja Cvil develops each song subtly but constantly, never letting wooden dullness seep in. If Tajemsty Noczy was a even block of sound, Czornaja Cvil’s more individualistic with a coherent collective sound, and as such may please the majority the most.