None More Black: The Conjunction of the Old and the New
This column has been absent for a while too long.
Even if Tyree has certainly done his best to keep the flame burning with Pure Fucking Armageddon, after having mentioned in his second edition of the series that it wasn’t going to be all black, I decided to step in. This isn’t going to be a very frequent series; only to surface at times I feel blackness is most needed. To further separate this from Tyree’s excellent series, the focus will not be on new-ish releases (although they might be included) but rather on older albums oft overlooked, releases that went without fanfare but deserve a chance, a look back at the classics and possibly even opinions! Resurrected shall be the Black Metal Track of the
Week Whatever Time-Fame I Feel Like Writing These In as well. But for starters we shall dine in the halls of the ancients, celebrated by the conjunction of metal and folk to most appropriately commemorate this occasion on which old and new merge.
Without any further elaborations let’s get to the business. I present to you a black metal band of the pagan-kind.
The Ukrainian Kroda have that pagan prefix for a reason. In their arsenal lie folk-instruments, the use of which is not entirely dissimilar to the excellent Nokturnal Mortum, and the compositions are folklore-ish in their own right, even without the actual folk instrumentation. The songwriting on the other hand is rather different from NM – especially on Kroda’s later works – utilizing an experimental undercurrent that works to their favor. Having begun as a studio band, they have performed live since 2007. Encyclopedia Metallum currently lists as many as 7 members, and despite having been associated with the NS scene, for one reason(s) beyond me, they have never actually been an NSBM band nor held such beliefs. That’s all the facts you need to have, I suppose, so let’s carry on.
On their latest album GinnungaGap GinnungaGaldr GinnungaKaos, released earlier this year, Kroda builds a more compact album (38 minutes) from more compact songs (8 songs between 4 and 5 minutes) than before. They know all the usual tricks: catchy tremolo riffs, powerful but not endless blasts, and guitar harmonies mixed with the folk instruments’ melodic work. Basically there’s nothing new at hand, but everything is well done and memorable, with a progressive undercurrent separating Kroda from pretty much all their peers. The folklore-ish side of the music isn’t overpowering, and you’ll be hearing a lot less flutes than on your average Eluveitie album; this is a black metal album at heart.
If you liked it, check out their next-to-last release Schwarzpfad here.
Since the absence has been long and the bands are similar, I present to you Kawir, one of the better black metal bands to arise from the Hellenic lands, the antiquity of which they are largely inspired by. Boasting or having boasted members from such bands as Varathron, Flegethon, Thy Darkened Shade, Nergal and Nocturnal Death might have been enough to catch my eye,but of all these connections I learned only later on.
I first heard their name when Steelfest announced their line-up and was left unimpressed by the song I heard. However a few more spins (call it natural-born stubbornness) and my curiosity was piqued enough to catch them live. The first thing that caught my attention in their performance, however, wasn’t the music. It was the mountain-of-a-man manning the guitar (mind you, I said nothing ’bout his height) and the vocalist standing tall, delivering his sermon like a priest after a good meal, preaching to the starving poor about their wretchedness; a sight both amusing and impressive at once. I’m glad I stayed, as the band did not only do their best to separate themselves from the dark masses once the guitar melodies transitioned to flutes (and a kanonaki?) but also revealed themselves to be a very capable band. Kawir proved, in fact, a surprise highlight of the whole fest and mind you, the folk-influence would not count at all if the songs were not good in their own right. Sadly, three of the band’s members (Ormenos, Phaesphoros and Askalaphos) have very recently retired from their duties in Kawir, leaving multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Therthonax and, despite Encyclopedia Metallum’s reluctance to credit him, Nick Angelopoulos (the mountain) as the band’s only current members.
They’ve come a long way from the Varathron-meets-Necromantia sound of “Adored Cry of Olympus” to the folk-laden melodies of “To Demeter”, but I have thoroughly enjoyed them all the way. I suggest you check out the Bandcamp pages for both Deathrune Records and Those Opposed Records [More on this label in the near future -W.], as they feature different albums. And give Kawir a like on Facebook.
In the end the differences between these bands seem minor, but the effect is gargantuan. While it is harder to see anyone not into “regular” black metal liking Kawir (and I can see the folklore-ish stuff being a turn off for those who are), Kroda might be appreciated by a wider audience. For the latter the addition of folk-instruments feels more like a main ingredient, never overused mind you, whereas for Kawir it seems more like a seasoning to a good meal. While others may prefer theirs bare, those with exquisite taste would not have it any other way.
Black Metal Track Of Whatever Time-Frame I Feel Like Writing These In
Drudkh released a new album this year and it went without as much fanfare as one would expect. I wasn’t sure how to feel of it at first, but slowly it’s growing on me. The closer, “Till Foreign Grounds Shall Cover Eyes”, is one of the catchier songs on the album and stands shoulder to shoulder with the band’s classics.