Atmospheric Black Pagan Metal
Zgard is a one man project of Yaromysl with three full length albums released in the span of one year. About a month ago I reviewed the second, here’s the third.
Zgard‘s latest album, “Astral Glow” is on par with what I expected after the previous one, “Reclusion”, on which you can read here. It has a bit more emphasis on the pagan folk side of things and on some tracks it is a more incisive type of black.
This time it mixes the synthesised sounds (and I am referring to the obvious synth keyboard sounds, not emulations of other instruments such as the piano that is present in a few songs) with the flute much better (loved the bits on the first track), which is just what I wanted from the album. However I enjoy the flute a bit more as the synth notes are a bit too distracting from the main feel with them being too high toned in comparison, but just as in “Reclusion” they do provide the astral/ethereal feel.
There’s the same good drumming which I begin to feel are computer generated (they’re not mentioned on the back cover). Even if so they hit the right spot needed to create a good sound. I also enjoyed the guitar riffs. As I already mentioned some tracks are more aggressive and they guitar parts play no small role in that. You can tell the artist has gone out of his way to break monotony by always mixing rhythms. On the vocal side of things I’d say the growls provide what they need to though they’re bit faded. I would have liked to hear them more clearly especially on those tracks where the riffs tend to bring the black in pagan black.
Yaromysl tries to constantly change the pace and feel of almost all the songs probably to break monotony. It does manage that but it doesn’t yet find that sweetspot where one part naturally flows into another. Some transitions are forced, abrupt and some listeners like myself take notice of that. Also some songs tie well with each other and this gives the feel of a more consistent work while some jump theme and appear added to meet a quota.
A couple of songs feature a piano part that I think functions quite well as an instrumental intermezzo of sorts on those bits where it’s not accompanied by much else and blends in with the atmosphere when you hear it in the background.
“Stars In The Night Sky” sounds particularly good with the chorus (which is probably the best synth work on the whole album if the drums are in fact “real”). Nice feel of the track and is one of the two I recommend for audition if you want a taste.
Probably the best mix of all the elements are heard in the seventh track, “Return To The Void”. It has a progressive build to the melody and it’s a polished piece from start to finish. It has a slower pace and maybe that’s why I liked it over the rest. You’ll just have to hear it yourselves.
Overall a slight improvement over Yaromysl‘s previous work. I’m much more likely to play this in the background while working since it puts me in a good mood.
1. Balance In Universe 11:52
2. When Breakin Down All The Ideals 05:46
3. Letargy Dream 10:46
4. Stars In The Night Sky 07:44
5. Old Woods 07:47
6. Astral Glow 08:08
7. Return To The Void 11:12
8. When Time Comes To Go Away 07:08
Atmospheric Black Pagan Metal
First of all I have to say that this is written after a 7th audition of the album. For the first 6 times I didn’t think I really understood it. Maybe I still haven’t but since I received another album from Zgard I thought I’d get this one done first. Here’s Zgard‘s previous album, Reclusion.
The intro (first track being just over two and a half minutes) has an eerie space sound, much in tone with the artwork presented on the cover. However it is not that relevant to the whole album which, while it does retain synthetic elements to provide the atmosphere, does come with a substance of pagan black metal very prevalent from the second song onward.
While the first 3 tracks seem to be fillers the sound reaches its fullness come the fourth song. And the flute that you can enjoy near the end of the fifth track adds in that little extra pagan touch.
The vocals throughout this album are just what you’d expect, neither being bad nor excelling. One does need to take into account however the fact that it’s a one man project. In this light you have to appreciate the many talents of Yaromysl. I think I enjoyed the percussion the most as they were a constant reminder in all of the pieces that he is a skilled musician. The rhythm guitar does its intended job of providing support alongside the thematic synth.
I consider Reclusion to be a good audition: it provides the atmosphere hinted at on the cover through the use of artificial effects (props to kogayon-art for making it look that good) and it manages to not be boring for the whole duration. It also feels quite epic, in a manner similar to film soundtracks. Not to say that it doesn’t have flaws. I feel it could have benefited from some powerful guitar solos and a more dominant voice. Also at times the synth sound clashes with the pagan influence provided by the flute. It’s a clash of two worlds which doesn’t always work. And while it avoids monotony by ever changing the rhythm and riffs, it’s all over the place and feels less consistent.
In conclusion it’s a decent background music for those hot days when you need a chill black sound to remind you of winter.
1. Icy indifference
3. Witchcraft of winter
5. Rise of coldness
7. Weeping goddess
8. In the roots of world tree
Band: Grown Below
Genre: sludge metal, post-rock
Label: Slow Burn Records
As a short walk into their history, Grown Below is a Belgian act formed in the early 2011, formerly known as Timer. Later that year, in June, the band signed with Slow Burn Records ( Russia ) and in September their first album ” The long now” was official released by the Russian Label.
Grown Below with “The Long now” has a very interesting, yet experimental approach. In my honest opinion it’s not really an album for the less experimented listeners. They manage to combine 2 genres that are somewhat in opposite, a heavy, rough, slow and depressive sludge/doom metal with harsh vocals and some dreamy, acoustic / ambient post rock elements with clean vocals.
Trojan Horse, the first song on the album is the perfect example for this experimental approach. The first 3 minutes of the song (from 13) demand some strong nerves, there are some really odd timed riffs, a very heavy bass line that overpowers the guitars, all of this giving the song a somewhat alternative approach. After this “intro” the songs drifts to a more post rock dimension with hypnotic and dreamy clean guitar passages, spacey atmosphere, clean vocals all of this exploding towards the end with some really great post rock riffs, a more aggressive drum tempo and a combination of harsh and clean yelled vocals.
The following songs, Devoid of Age and The Abyss have a similar structure as the first song, two genres mixed in one, sludge doom moments merged with post rock elements. This time the elements are mixed better, it doesn’t give you the idea of two songs in one, also in “The Abyss” we have some harmonic violin and female vocals passages, something that you would not expect in this album.
Minaco II – Nebula is a very minimalist song, 4 minutes of post rock atmosphere, it’s like a intro for the next song End of all time, a song that follows the direction set by the previous longer tracks, but this time with a more relaxed approach.
Finally, The Long Now is the last long song on the album, a heavy 16 minutes song filled with dreamy hypnotic slow clean guitar passages, clean vocals followed by heavy doomish guitar riffs, growled vocals, aggressive drums and some beautiful female background vocals. This song really deserves to be the name of the album, it contains all the elements spread in the entire album. We also have an outro for this album, Malklara.
Overall, “The long now” contains different approaches and different influences, as we said above regarding the genre we have sludge doom, post rock, we have some atmospheric keyboards, subtle guitar riffs, clean vocals, death metal vocals, we have violin, some female vocals, a strong bass all of this in a 1 hour album. Maybe to complex, maybe it’s just the way it should be, this is for you to judge. The album is really well produced and I really enjoyed the post rock elements combined with a little touch of doom.
Rating: 7 / 10
1. Trojan Horses
2. Devoid Of Age
3. The Abyss
4. Minaco II – Nebula
5. End Of All Time
6. The Long Now
Style: blackgaze / shoegaze
Label: Valse Sinistre Productions
Even if some people could have some complaints about the lack of innovation or variation between tracks, “Calm Down, You Weren’t Set On Fire” is a decent release, with a very ethereal and dreamy atmosphere, completed by some blackgaze elements, merged with the post-rock / shoegaze flavor. From my point of view it is an improvement over the previous release and it will be interesting to see how this evolution of Hypomanie will continue.
1. 19 Stars And The Sweet Smell Of Cinnamon
2. Alissa Loves Perfume
3. If Only The Seas Were Merciful
4. Lullabye For Ian
5. Pale Blue
6. You Never Listened To The Birds
Hypomanie on Myspace
Band: Din Brad
Style: traditional Romanian soundscape / neofolk
Label: Prophecy Productions
Din Brad, the side project of two members of the current Negura Bunget, Negru and Inia Dinia, has been a long mystery to many of us. It has been announced as “neofolk” project, some time ago, but with the departure of Hupogrammos and Sol Faur from the band it was said that Din Brad would carry on Negru’s vision of Negura Bunget. Strictly, from this point of view, the things were soon clear, Negura Bunget would continue its work but with a different line-up, Dordeduh was created by Hupogrammos and Soul Faur, the only project that was still a mystery remained “Din Brad”.
The waiting for the first Din Brad material, English for “from the fir tree,” lasted until 2011 when the band recorded its first album entitled “Dor” (Yearning, Longing in English).
To my surprise “Dor” is focused very much on the traditional Romanian music. It is an album inspired one hundred percent by Romanian folklore, an album with 11 songs divided between a personal view on authentic Romanian traditional music and traditional songs, sung by local performers.
The fir tree, longing, these two elements may seem ordinary to some, but they manage to create that strong link between traditions and those far away, isolated and forgotten lands and places. There, the purity of these feelings and lyrics that are found in the songs haven’t lost their true meaning.
I never had the impression that we, as a nation, are the most joyful people out there. Grief, longing, this two feelings are the main themes of traditional Romanian music and specific to our nation, this songs are called “Doină”.
Din Brad – Dor, as a whole, is a doină, a melancholic and mournful 40 minute experience. “Dor” is exploring this emblematic feelings.
It’s like they say, a traditional Romanian soundscape, imbued with traditional instruments, a specific theme of this area and pure folklore. All of these elements describe “Dor” as a unique Romanian feature.
The album should be viewed separately, not as a direct connection between Din Brad and Negura Bunget. I’m sure many have thought about it or they were expecting it. Some similarities can be found on keyboards, which renders the atmosphere that is found in some Negura Bunget songs. We are used with Negru handling the drums, but perhaps we were not expecting female voices on this project. The vocals on “Dor” are provided by Alma and Inia Dinia. To be honest I have a problem with the vocals, the interpretation often lacks any substance, it is more like a recitation, simply it does not seem strong enough, it does not wake any feelings.
“Dor uses traditional authentic Romanian folklore music as a way to capture forgotten times and feelings”, indeed, this is what it does, it is a way to preserve and spread our traditions, music and ancestral folklore.
2. Imbratisat de dor
3. Poarce’n Suflet Greu Pacatu
5. Cîntecul Cununei
7. Of, of, viata
9. Foaie Verde, Odolean
10 Cine Iubeste si Lasa
Band: Fading Waves
Style: Post Metal
Label: Slow Burn Records
Honestly, this is the first time I’ve heard of this band and from what I’ve seen “Fading Waves” is a one-man project. Alexey Maximuk is the man behind “Fading Waves” and “The sense of space”, the album we’re going to talk about, is the first full length release.
The album begins with “Airs” a short song of 2 minutes and 45 seconds, call it a short intro for “The Sense of Space” album.
This are 2 minutes of eerie music with some spacey and really atmospheric sound effects. In the background you can also hear some low radio voices, something similar to the ones heard in the clips about “space missions”.
Although “Airs” is not a long song, that calm atmosphere continues with “Flashes”. We find the same passages of keyboards, passages that bring the feeling of infinity, some calm guitar notes and something I was really not expecting, an angelic female vocal.All these elements are clearly described in the lyrics also, they create one eerie image: “Imagine how you sail in these clouds, slowly, lying on your back”. Well, this is how the song sounds like.
“Destroying the time”, the third song on the album is a little bit more aggressive, it starts with some distorted guitar riffs, some fast drum rhythms and it keeps its intensity until the end. I was really pleasant surprised when the harsh vocals made their appearance. I heard something similar with “Snohtbaen Son”.
“Perforated the time” is a mix between “The Sense of Space” and “Destroying the time”, a blend between what is worldly and celestial.
The final song on the album, “Through the veins” hits you hard, right from the start with some really heavy drumming, there’s a lot of energy into this song. After 2 minutes played, we have again those harsh vocals, but somewhere at the middle of the song, the intensity starts to drop and the female vocals appear. This moment of calmness is short, the ending is yet again very energetic, quite apocalyptic, insane guitar riffs, hard drum beats, this ending goes straight trough your veins.
The album is more worldly than the name says, “The sense of space”, only the beginning of the album gives the sensation of space, infinite and silence. After the first two songs that spacey feeling is slowly fading away, all becomes “mortal”, rushed, harsh and explosive. “The sense of space” is good release, something for the people who like the “metal” approach in the post rock movement, well yeah, that’s why it’s called post metal.
3. Destroying the time
4. Perforate the sky
5. Through the veins
Label: Slow Burn Records
Official Site – http://fadingwavesband.com/
Myspace – http://www.myspace.com/fadingwavesband
Band: Cold Body Radiation
“Deer Twillight” is the second release of the Holland’s shoegaze black metal band Cold Body Radiation. After the high worldwide acclaimed first album “The great white emptiness”, Cold Body Radiation are back with another interesting studio album.
Released at the end of 2011, “Deer Twillight” is an album quite hard to classify, just like the previous release. The first song of the album, the song that also gives the album its name, directly induce you into a very dreamy and atmospheric world. If we’re going to talk about the whole album, the elements that gave “The great white emptiness” its black shoegaze “flavor”, the aggressive touch, have almost disappeared. Even if there are enough distorted guitar passages, those passages lack in power and depth. The “Deer Twillight” album is heading more towards the post rock / Shoegaze scene.
After the first three songs, the one who stands out a bit is “The night reveals”. The beginning is very similar to what is heard through the newest post rock scene, some very spacey guitar riffs for the intro, but after that the song catches in intensity through some really nice blast beats. This drums have a post punk touch, giving the song a real good pace. The vocal part on this song is present only trough the end of the song and it’s mostly whispered.
“Concept of Forever” is the only song that recalls most of the blackgaze concept or call it a metal song. The blast beats are also present in this song, screamed vocals, high tempo guitar riffs, but even so, after a period of time the song loses in intensity.
The entire album has lost some of the intensity found in “The great white emptiness”, yet the album won some points in songwriting. The big difference between “The Deer Twillight” and “The great white emptiness” is that the last release has a big inclination towards the post rock / Shoegaze scene, it’s a more cosmic. calming release and less metal.
The album is dreamy, the emphasis is put more on clean guitar passages, all of this giving the song a melancholic, atmospheric and even psychedelic feeling. Sure, I miss the black and metal touch from their first release, but I’m sure quite a few people will enjoy this release, especially if you’re into the post rock scene.
Rating : 7.5
1. Deer Twillight
2. Make Believe
3. The Night reveals
5. A change of pace
6. Concept of forever
7. Yes, maybe the stars
Moonlit Wake – Moonlit Wake Demo 
Genre(s): Atmospheric Black Metal, depressive black metal, shoegaze
Location LINDEN, Virginia, US
Record Label Unsigned
Most of the times, when we usually talk about Depressive black metal. atmospheric black metal, post-black metal, shoegaze bands (or other similar subgenres), we position them directly in Europe, without really seeing farther continents. Even if, as of late, this tendency started to be noticed very well in countries such as Canada, USA.
”Moonlit Wake” is one of those bands that haven’t been heard by a large audience, from those places where we believe that atmospheric, depressive black metal aren’t really listened to ( even if there are a lot of bands from the States that can prove us wrong ).
This ”project” was born at the beginning of 2008 and it contains a mixture of several genres that find their roots in atmospheric/depressive black metal. Also, post rock, ambient elements can be found there.. all of this making us think of bands like Alcest, Amesoeurs, early Katatonia, Draugluin and others.
The ”Moonlit Wake’‘ demo is a very good example of how well these genres/influences can lace together, of how easily you can pass from a state of mind of ”explosion, escape” to one that is bathed in melancholy, dreams and ethical calm.
The tracks are only instrumental, they are based on the idea of a slow, atmospheric black metal, they give you a sensation of continuous waiting, loneliness and melancholy. The more rhythmic moments are the ones that put more emphasis on depressive black metal ( for instance, at the end of the track named Enduring Faith, the beginning of Twilight ). The whole demo is, as a matter of fact, a ”game” between figments of atmospheric black metal, post rock and depressive black metal, ( very similar with the composition of: ”Ecailles De Lune” (Part I and II) from Alcest ), a ”game” that will certainly get you. And as far as I’m concerned, the ending of the song named Twilight really caught me, a post rock, acoustic fragment, simple and beautiful.
In the demo, there are 20 minutes in which you simply let yourself caught by music, there are 20 minutes of ”Nocturnal Comfort” and it’s the clear demonstration that you don’t have to toughen the things too much to get a thing well done.
p.s.: to be listened to in a proper state of mind.
1. Enduring Faith
3. Nocturnal Comfort
4. Moonlit Wake