Review: Kawir – Exilasmos
The Hellenic, or Greek, black metal scene has for the longest time produced some of the best black metal known to man. Much like any other scene, they’ve had their legends and masterpieces, their unsung champions and outliers, and their worthless scrapers. And while there may be no one particular monarch to stand above the rest, reigning year after year – few have ever paralleled the consistency of Kawir. Many have tried, Varathron, though still producing great music, has never equaled their early masterpieces. Rotting Christ spent years looking for themselves, and though have now found a unique, blackened groove, they’ve settled to be “good” instead of “magnificient”. And while the likes of Nocternity and Macabre Omen are giving them a run for their money, they’ve neither reached the peaks, nor put out the material, to equal Therthonax’s labour of love.
Over the last several years, Kawir has been including more and more folk instruments in their music, not radically altering their sound or the underlying feeling of composure, but changing it all the same. This approach saw it’s peak when Therthonax assembled a new, all-Greek line-up in 2015, and produced a somewhat trudging and meandering, but all the same excellent Father Sun Mother Moon, released last year. I wager I wasn’t the only one who didn’t expect a follow-up so soon, but here we are, and Exilasmos is a very different beast. Having since added a full-time keyboardist to the line-up and stripped away pretty much all of the flutes, kanonakis and pastoral pipes – it’s closer to Kawir of old, with it’s melody-driven riffs and faster pace.
Though stripped of it’s predecessor’s indulgence, and poignant passages seeking to add that extra-level of “epic” to the record, Exilasmos is punchier, darker and – perhaps surprisingly, a more diverse effort. While the aggression of many tracks does trace back to To Cavirs, it retains the more grandiose mood of their later records, fit for the albums concept – based on the stories of two houses that invoked the wrath of the gods, bringing curse upon their bloodlines, as they wrought violent ruin upon themselves. The band gallops, blasts and slouches twixt a flurry of solos so often overlooked in black metal, melodies, leads, tremolos and harmonies so distinctly them, you wonder how come they didn’t release these songs in the 90’s – yet somehow manage to avoid re-treading old ground.
At 42-minutes, Exilasmos wouldn’t have too much time to get boring anyways, but the songs are loaded with hooks, and tend to shift paces, never content to sit on one part for too long, while by no means proggy. On an occasion or two, Kawir still brings out the flutes, underlining the concept’s ties to their native land – and likewise further empower the few vocal hooks with cleans or a small choir courtesy of Macabre Omen’s Alexandros. But choir or no choir, the star of the show is Porphyrion. By no means an inexperienced man, among others his vocals have adorned Lykaionas‘, Cult of Eibon’s and Nergal’s albums. But it is here where he gives the performance of a lifetime, ripping and tearing through each syllable as if were suckling on their lifesblood. His savage performance both accents and contradicts the heroic, even uplifting mood of the album.
A clean cut record, Exilasmos is also one of the best sounding and balanced black metal records I’ve heard in a while. While not raw by any measure, such a decision would only have deprived the album of it’s power. And while it may not win any DR awards, the lack of quietude on the album and the way each instrument compliments each other, from the lilting guitars to the wet-string bass, I don’t think it could have sounded much better.
Easily one of the best records Kawir, or the (hellenic) black metal scene by large have produced.
5/5 FLAMING TOILETS OV HELL
Yes, I gave it a full score, bugger off. But getcha a copy of your own first, and like Kawir on Facebook, telling them Toilet says ‘Sup. Or visit them on Bandcamp. Images courtesy of Kawir and Iron Bonehead Productions.