I didn’t come up with Ljosazabojstwa, but it’s by far one of the most exotic band names I’ve encountered. The band hails from Belarus and in a sense for many people this is as exotic as it gets since the mere mention of the country evokes a grey canvas of unknownness. This is the second release by the Minsk natives and it is titled ‘Sychodžańnie’.
The group is fairly fresh, having only started in 2013. The previous release was a demo titled ‘Staražytnaje licha’. The band likes to blend black metal atmosphere with some death metal swagger. This results in a sound that can probably be closest described by comparing it to Behemoth. Still, thanks to the Russian language there’s a special vibe to this group.
Ljosazabojstwa has a sound that is both clean and menacing but holds a death metal groove just as well. There’s also the odd classical experience, like on ‘Zhuba’, where the lone guitar player demonstrates his icy skill. Or that eerie organ intro ‘Pozirk u biezdan’, that sounds like it comes straight from a horror film in those glory days. There’s a deep, heavy groove to the menacing death metal riffs on the first track. It slowly waxes and wanes, like the heavy clashes of sea against the shores.
The deep, abyssal grunts of the vocalist really work well with that slow and steady sound. You’d almost put a doom sticker on this heavy, creeping sound when listening to ‘Piekla’. Spoken word parts fill up the blanks in the story, but soon we launch into the next assault of the song. Rapid, thrashing guitar play and that gravelly, intimidating sound speed up and slow down to beat at the listener. This is music to overwhelm, to strike fear into the listener with the continuous ominous vibe. The use of those synths is definitely striking on that front.
Though the sound of these Belarussians is pretty straight forward, they manage to display a lot of different facets. Various ways to absolutely crush any sort of opponents, to deluge their listeners in harsh, Belarussian swamps. An excellent piece of music with an exotic flavor to it.
Last august I went to the Ardennes for a climbing course. The course took from friday until sunday and if all went well I’d receive my Toprope Certificate from the NKBV (Dutch climbing association). It was an amazing experience, overcoming fears both on the wall and in my head.
I often ask myself why I actually climb. I’m not particularly talented and I have a fear of heights that isn’t easily subdued. Going on this weekend brought the additional fear with it of taking my CPAP device on the road with me for the very first time. What would people think about that and would I be able to live up to my high standard of quality climbing?
Luckily I didn’t have to face this alone. One of my oldest and best friends is a true athlete and his presence always has a calming effect on me. Sure, I seem to like the weak one in this collaboration, but who really cares. We met up in the Ardennes with the rest of the crew. Three ladies and us two would be trained by Andries and Harry. Andries is a full pro, who does this as a freelancer with his company ZelanOutdoor. He’s a sports teacher too, so he has that sensitivity to peoples feelings and vibe. Harry is an old school climber with a bag full of stories. In between the two, we had an interesting mix of knowledge, expertise and passion.
We got to know each other a little and then went to practice and learn some theory about the climbing due to the heavy rains coming down all the time. When we finally did get to go out, we could try a little bit of climbing and some abseiling. After one attempted ascent the clouds broke and after having holed up in a cave for a bit, we dashed back to the Tukhut (an NKBV owned establishment for mountain bikers, hikers and climbers). I didn’t make it dry and a wet pair of shoes would be my penalty for the next two days.
Running into walls
Surprisingly the team was very nice about my device and actually complimented me on the soundlessness. This was very pleasant and bolstered my travel lust for the future. I felt quite comfortable when we headed out to hit some walls in Hotton. There are some low-level routes that can be pure fun to climb, but also some harder material. After getting our toes in the water on some easy warm-up routes, we felt ready for the big work and the group split in two. Part of the team went climbing some easier, shorter routes. Climbing levels differ and clearly the trainers knew how to deal with that.
We went climbing some more complex routes and… I choked. While climbing a steep chimney with small grips the fear took hold of me after a few slips (there’d been some downpour and water was still pooled up in some cracks). With just some slim holds and mostly using body pressure to go up I got hold of a small jug but completely lost my cool. Disappointed and angry I went down. On the next route, I successfully jammed my hand in cracks to pull myself up, pushing some new techniques, but my body had cramped up and my wrists were very painful. I let myself down. I was ashamed and I connected this to everything else raging around in my head.
While climbing I was thinking of my new job I’d start on Monday. I also thought of the choice to not pursue studies this September, what was my original plan. Thinking of the 2 months of mental turmoil I’d been suffering through since I received my CPAP therapy (more about that here) filled my head. Because of that I crashed and burned. Later I fought myself through an easier pitch, but that hardly cheered me up.
Trainer Andries took me aside when we arrived back at the hut and asked me if I was ok. I sort of muttered and stuttered my disappointment and how much I had hanging on those few climbs. On my back I carried my worries, so I was climbing with a mental pack. Not sure how, but he made me feel a bit better. We had dinner, some drinks and then it was time for a good night sleep.
I’ve climbed a lot in recent years, but some climbs matter more. We went back to the same walls the next day. It was the last day of the weekend and I needed to redeem myself. Humbled and more focused we started to climb. Halfway up the longest route, full of great grips I started to sing to myself. My head emptied out and I felt the pure bliss of hitting the rock. Every thought was followed by a movement. Every limb in harmony with the others, one by one I ascended the wall.
The next climb was a tricky start with some hidden pockets, but smooth sailing up to the top. I asked Andries to help me lose my fear of falling and he did. Falling is scary, it’s a moment of complete panic and submission to the elements. It’s toprope though and in fractions of seconds, you’re securely hanging on your harness. It’s about trust in your partner and knowing what happens.
Harder, Higher, Heavier
Then we went to the tougher stuff. I joked a bit at the start of a tricky route. It went up in a crack between the rock wall and an outstanding slab that stuck up int he sky like a monolithic tower. With trepidation, I started the climb and on my way to the top, a change came over me. I stopped being afraid, this was comfortable climbing. This was up my sleeve and within my comfort levels. I could do this one without any problem!
And then I got to the last problem, to get myself on the top of the tower, where I’d be standing with only the wind and a wall to lean against. My rope had turned three times and fearlessly I looped it around myself once, twice and thrice. As I gazed out over the tree tops and the beautiful region, I felt completely at peace. I was free, not just of my worries, but of my fear of the fall. This was my first ascent and I had just completely fallen in love with climbing. I took a deep breath and started my descent.
I climbed another hard route full of confidence after that. Hard is a relative term. I’m no Alex Honnold or Chris Sharma, nor will I ever be. But I’ve started to love climbing with a passion. I fall regularly now, usually while trying more tricky 5+ routes or 6a’s (French ranking system). I’m doing lead climbing too now, but the fear of falling returns. There’s always the next leap.
Apricity took their sweet time making this album. Most of it was recorded in 2014, but the whole vibe of the record fits the prevailing sound of that melodic death metal era a while earlier. Now, I’m not calling this a retro act. They sound great and the recent production is awesome. It just happens that they clearly take their inspiration from a very melodic corner of the metal scene.
The band originates in Klaipeda on the Lithuanian coast and should not be confused with their American counterpart in name. The album was produced this year and finally unleashed on this world. I for one wish them a lot of luck and success with this release.
The style of Apricity fits best in something that is both technical and melodic, bearing with it influences from melodeath and metalcore alike. The way they implement this in their sound from ‘The Afterflow’ onwards creates a strong sound. The vibe is that of a narrative with gritty effects and interesting effects. As if we’re in a sci-fi horror film. When the riffs kick in a moment later, they sound smooth and clean. A very accessible sound for a metal band. This reminds me of the days when I’d listen to this endlessly while gaming. This is the kind of band that lures the kids in. That’s not a bad thing.
So with the grunted, roaring vocals, the particular arch they take, I have to think back to bands like Norther. Particularly on ‘Bridging The Infinite’. I’m less impressed by the vocals on ‘The Human Hive’, where they seem to try a bit too hard, even on the clean parts. The keys are ever so present by the way, which is noteworthy. This avenue of metal was sort of abandoned years ago, but Apricity picks it up on their album like it never left. It’s a dangerous sound, like on previously mentioned song, where the listener really surfs along on those clean waves. The catchy melodies, the production, it all promises way too much. That is what makes Apricity so damn nice to listen to. The catchy riffs, the smooth drums, this album is just super slick and a great lure for future metal fans.
So welcome to another bit of book reading by myself with works by AlastairBonnett, Eric H. Cline, Joanna Harris and Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. From Viking myths to forgotten cities, lost civilizations and the world of Dragonlance.
Alastair Bonnett – Unruly Places: Lost Spaces, Secret Cities, and Other Inscrutable Geographies
Think of places that are special to you. You might be thinking in a lot of manners now, but probably you’ve got some ideas that are more feeling than geographic location. That’s just one example of how a place works for us and what place can mean. In this amazing book the author Alastair Bonnett explores a series of places with various characteristics. Imagine for example an island that you see on a map every day. Suddenly it turns out that this island never existed. What does that do and mean to us? What is it like when we notice weird corners in our own daily meanderings, which seem to be forgotten and owned by no-one in particular. And what about places that move, are they still places?
Keeping these questions low-brow and fun, Bonnett writes a surprisingly elaborate story that explores all these questions and more. You’ll never think of that weird patch of grass you pass by daily in between two roads in the same manner. Maybe you have this magical door you remember from childhood or a mythical location you’ve read about. These are all themes for this book, which are woven into a tapestry of theory together. The style of Bonnett is one of an eager explorer, who takes you along on his path. Asking questions, but not always answering them completely, the reader engages with this book and that alone makes this a treasure map.
Eric H. Cline – 1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed
Egyptians, Hittites, Canaanites, Cypriots, Minoans, Mycenaeans, Assyrians and Babylonians… Maybe you know all of them from something like Age of Empires, but all these civilisations at some point in history collapsed only to be rediscovered thousands of years later by us. In this book, Eric Cline investigates the findings of archaeologists to first create a reconstruction of this forgotten past and analyse what possible events could have let up to the year 1177 B.C. when everything collapsed. The disclaimer is that obviously, not everything fell apart in one go at that time, but its a markable point in history around which these events must have occurred and radically change the face of the world as we’ve come to know it all these years later.
It’s a peculiar question, how things would have been if there was something like a continuity. Cline spins a tale that offers a lot of suggestions and hints, but never actually goes into speculation. What this book brings to the table in a low-level manner is the facts and what sort of past they reconstruct. It’s a captivating tale with a lot of what ifs and food for thought about the way we live in our own times. Sure, the world was much bigger back then, but parallels can be drawn with current times and that is what makes this book fascinating, relevant and maybe even urgent with regard to current day events. A captivating read.
Joanne Harris – The Gospel of Loki
We’ve all heard the tales of Loki the Trickster. But did you ever hear them from the horse’s mouth? How would the story look when it is told by the man himself? That must have been the question that Joanna Harris asked herself because this is exactly what we get here. True to the olden tales of the Edda, we follow Loki through his times in Asgard as an unwanted runt in the family of the Aesir and Vanir. The origins of the trickster, his attempts at finding a home among the gods and his chaotic nature all are part of a story that is strangely touching but also often flat-out hilarious. Apparently, there are more parts, but this book on its own is already a worthy read and a treat.
The story is told from the perspective of Loki, who also happens to be the storyteller. That means you have vivid depictions of what transpired when Loki and the oaf Thor went to see the giants for example. Loki also comments on the story and breaks that fourth wall multiple times. It just feels so right, with all the fitting epic bombast of a Marvel movie as well as the metaphoric aspects that are so much what the original stories are all about. It makes for such a fun read and I hated that it ended. So maybe I should read the whole series.
Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman – Kender, Gully Dwarves, and Gnomes
Another collection from Krynn, the world of the Dungeons & Dragons Dragonlance setting. This is a collection of stories with Weis and Hickman as glorious editors. Their names are well known in the fantasy universe and you can be sure to get something good out of them. This book follows similar adventures as the previous one did. It focusses on the well-known adventurers from the setting. These consist of humans, elves, dwarves, and kender. The tone and presentation are quite old-fashioned. That gives them a specific charm and atmosphere. That in turn really works with the material and because of that also serves the reader in his experience of these stories.
What is so enjoyable about these stories, is that they have a mature tone to it. There are some definite sexual references in this book, but done in such a way that probably only adult readers will pick up on them. That is an art in itself by the various writers. Richard A. Knaak, who I like for his Warcraft stories, has a peculiar tale about a Minotaur who shows the futility of strife to a human knight. Weis and Hickman themselves take up the bulk with a story about a gambling god and the heroes who suffer because of that. Though I enjoy these stories, the Dragonlance setting lacks a certain charm for me. It seems as if the outline of the world is too simple at times, too much a predecessor for better-balanced universes like that of Warcraft or the Forgotten Realms. That gives the stories a lot of advantage because then the story essence needs to be much better. That’s what these writers succeed in with glory.
Label: Metal Blade Band: Bloodclot Origin: United States
This is a bit of a special little thing for me because Bloodclot is not a new band. It’s old as fuck and it revives a sound that is very dear to me. Raw, straight up hardcore with a metallic tang in its delivery. Bloodclot originates somewhere in 1981 and revolves around hardcore royalty, Iron Man athlete, vegan activist and Cro-Mags frontman John Joseph.
Joseph rekindled the fire of this band due to a chance situation, where AJ Novello was unable to play and Todd Youth (AgnosticFront, Danzig) was called in to fill in on guitar. Nick Oliveri and Joey Castillo (Queens of the Stone Age) joined up and here we have an all star band. In the previous incarnation in the noughties (2008) the band featured members from Bad Brains, Cro-Mags, Biohazard, Sick of it All, Dead Kennedy‘s and Monster Magnet.
So this is a band full of people that have seen it all but are still keen to play snotty, in your face hardcore music. They do it so well on ‘Up in Arms’, which is a whole record of fun, fury, and groove. Clocking in just under 30 minutes, from the opening riff of the title track on, you’re hooked. Joseph sounds clear and venomous. The energy and drive in the music are frightening. Blistering guitar work, high paced drumming and lyrics that actually have something to say race by.
Sure, this record lacks that ratty vibe of early hardcore. These are musicians who lay down solid tracks, but that also means that they channel their frustration in much more effective and to the point ways. That’s exactly where this record shines brightest. It’s where Joseph lets his voice go in overdrive on ‘Manic’. When the guitars just leave you on edge, waiting for the explosion.
Bloodclot sounds fresh, it sounds like hardcore sounded when it was good and meaningful. There’s no room for any ego’s, just for great and powerful music.
It’s a rainy day in Varniai and we’ve found a dry spot for a chat with Lithuanian folk-metallers Ūkanose at KilkimŽaibu festival. The band has been around for a little while and released an absolutely great record with classic sounding songs. We’re sitting down with guitar players RobertasTurauskas and LinasPetrauskas to discuss the band.
The sound of the band is a complex matter. It’s not full on metal, but it also isn’t rock. The songs are almost purely folk though, which all the force and bombast merely support. It’s as if the band tries to make the songs more vitalic, more powerful, without losing any of their integrity.
The group has six members, who have all been active in some form in the metal scene. They’re currently changing drummer, so half their set at Kilkim Žaibu festival was played by Vilius Garba (who also plays in Sagittarius) instead of ViliusPanavas. It turns out it’s not the first shift in the band’s line-up since 2012.
I just think that if you want to say you are a warrior, if you want to sing about being a warrior, you can’t be some lazy guy just blathering about this while smoking your cigarettes. You have to be what you preach. – Martynas Švedas
Q: Can you tell me a bit about the origin of Ūkanose?
Linas: Well, I started the band back then together with our accordion player Tadas (Survila red.). We both had a love for folk music and wanted to do something together. We wanted to be like folk music, but heavier and for that, we needed a drummer and so on. So we got a band together and played our first show in Trakai back in 2012.
Mind, back then we were a very different band, we had a girl on vocals next to the male vocals and the line-up was vastly different.
Robertas: When I joined the band 1,5 years ago, there were seven members. Some of those were dropped, it was simply not working. We also decided to not have any females in the band. No, I’m just kidding about that, but the singer was just not fitting in with the sound we wanted to attain. We wanted to play, as a band, a much heavier sound so some members left at that time. We were simply not on the same line and that showed in the productivity in songwriting. By that time the band had written 5 songs in 4,5 years. In just 1,5 year we wrote 6 songs now and we’re working on more.
At this moment singer Martynas joins.
Martynas: Songs that I actually can sing!
Q: It seems to me that this addition was very significant for the sound of Ūkanose?
R: The thing with Martynas is that he doesn/t play anything, but he listens very well and has a good overview of things. Het looks at it as an outsider.
M.: You really have to take your time for the songs to come together and keep an eye on the theme and topics. For example, we did a song about Viking raids and the Curonians, a tribe from current day Latvia.
R: We have to make the songs relevant to what we want to communicate. We take inspiration from the partisan songs during the Soviet occupation, we make resistance metal!
L: What we write about comes from the inside.
Q: What sort of reception did your music get at first?
R: A friend in Poland, named Leopold, said that we sound like an amazing folk punk band. I guess we have a mixture of punk, metal and folk going on. This is also because Tadas is the punkrock guy, so I think that also helps with a unique sound.
L: There’s something in there for everyone, even for the people in the small villages there’s something to be found in our sound.
M: We want to do a lot of things with our music, it has to be as Linas says something we truly feel like. For example. today I have three events to partake in. Participation is essential to feed the base. You have to be there to make it genuine. But we play only to please ourselves in the end.
R: We participated in a band contest a while ago, where everyone gets to play three songs. For some reason, the judge of that contest decided to say we were Nazis. That makes no sense at all. They decided that our music and message was in that spectrum somehow. That sort of crap comes easily if you try to be different.
Q: So how did that work out? That sort of accusation can really be damaging for a band.
R: It happens a lot here. Maybe itś something political, but there’s a lot of generalization involved with it. Folk metal would automatically be nazi, even though these bands, like ourselves, rarely have any political content.
L: We shouldn’t care about this, but it ruins our reputation.
R: What we did after that is share that information as a video online and asked people this: “These people think we are nazi’s, what do you think?”. No one agreed with the jury…
M: I think these were just very narrow-minded people, who have no clue about music. They are only focussed on that mechanical music and disrespect attempts at making something genuine. They miss the effort that goes in it, the lyrics and the message of a band.
Q: Since you guys sound so different, what sort of reception did you get from the metal crowd?
R: There was this German guy who kept writing to us to tell us that Martynas sucks, he made a whole study of why and how he sucked and kept telling us about it. Unfortunately, there’s always a bit of a negative response from the metal crowd.
Thereś a huge divide between the pop audience and metal crowd I suppose. Metal really resists societies norms, wants to be evil and about satSatand stuff… Though I think it is not as bad in Lithuania.
Q: So what I’m getting is that you guys are about the past in a sense, but is it to reinvoke or reimagine the past or to take from there and be in the now?
R: I think we are a modern band, we are a continuation of that past. There’s something to take and learn from that past. You see Martynas and Linas here, they are real. Let me explain, Martynas for example plays three shows today and takes part in the viking reenactments. Martynas makes things like this leather satchel he is wearing, because he learned how to craft that. Linas is a shieldcrafter and also a reenactor. They are living the things we sing about. Martynas can just live in a forest and be happy there, you know? That makes what they do come from a real place.
M: I just think that if you want to say you are a warrior, if you want to sing about being a warrior, you can’t be some lazy guy just blathering about this while smoking your cigarettes. You have to be what you preach.
Q: Are there any bands you look to as an inspiration for the sound of Ūkanose?
L: When I started shaping this band and its sound, I didn want to sound like anyone else really. I wanted to sound like Ūkanose. Something that wasn’t around at that time and I think that is what we are now. I guess there is some black metal inspiration in the sound though.
M: I wanted this band to sound like Martynas…
R: I think Skyforger would be an automatic inspiration for us, we even covered one of their songs. To me thereś even something of power metal in the music, which is partly the ideas and context it invokes, like Sabaton does.
Q: How do you create your songs as a band?
R: We really start with one idea that comes to the table. We get on top of that with the whole band as a team. In a band like ours, you sort of have to. For example, I can’t write the melodies for the accordeon. We can help eachother add things, change things that don’t work, but we have to work together on that. We make a lot of changes. An then we have to make the songs a lot shorter every time…
Q: Ok, so let us talk a bit about your album that came out last year, the self-titled release. What can you tell me about it, how was the response?
R; The overall response we got was quite positive. We were quite happy that it finally got released actually. The original line-up of Ūkanose couldn’t do all these songs, this one can. Martynas sings all the songs and they are some great songs. Unfortunately the mix was done by someone with a metal background, so the folk is a bit missing when you listen to it.
L: It’s a good start, I give it a 7.
R: I think the album gives a good picture of what we are about, what we try to express and is a great way of saying to the world ‘here we are’! This is us coming out of the mist, as a band and a message. This is what the word Ūkanose actually means; ‘out of the fog’. I also feel it shows artistic integrity, it feels like an honest record to me.
L: For me Ūkanose has a lot of meaning to it, it is about life and death, being between the sky and the earth, it is the connective tissue that binds all of this together. I think the album captures that.
All money was put into this record and it was released on a Russian label. That was not the best idea I think, we should have done that part different. I have nothing against Russia, but with everything going on it may not be such a good thing.
Q: I just watched you guys play live. It’s a great experience with a sound, you can’t really compare to other bands. How would you describe your live show?
M: Well, I like to play as offten as possible actually… I want people to feel welcome at our shows. But now I have to go for the next act of the day. (red. Martynas plays later with Ukanose, a folk project and with Lithuanian black metal legends Obtest).
R: I think it’s a very genuine experience. Martynas is a great frontman for us live, he is just very authentic. I never was into this folk metal sound myself, but I think we sound very speial. Our music is different, it stays closer to something authentic, but it also has something spiritual to it for me.
L: I think we have a bit of a classic rock feel on stage, but itś also really metal to me.
R: The message is to express yourself, like we need to express this in Ūkanose. Don’t let the constraints of society stop you from sharing your message. Just play!
M: But make sure that you have a message!
Q: If you had to compare Ūkanose to a type of food, what would it be and why?
R: Well, that is sort of cheating, but it fits. Mead can be sweet and spicy, but not too shy. We drink mead to Perkunas. We would be a good honey mead of 14,5% alcohol.
M; It’s a celebratory drink.
L: It’s a drink that expresses strong friendship and praise of the bees and honeys, that’s us.
Dungeon synth is a peculiar genre and is being made in strange places. One of the acts I came across recently is Varkâna. The inspiration for their sound comes from Iranian paganism and history, which obviously offers a wealth of inspiration for any artist seeking topics to work with. Varkâna is the old Persian word for a region south-east of the Caspian sea, now known as Hyrcania. A region now partly in Iran and partly in Turkmenistan, which was incorporated in various historical empires.
So, because I was really curious I got in touch with the artist behind the project and I’ll share the reply the way I received it: “It’s based on Iranian mythology and nature. I composed all the tracks when I was away from the city and deep into the vast lands and forests ofnorthwestern Iran, the name varkana means land of wolves which is a part of Iran it’s called Gorgan now which means the same.”
The music of Varkâna summons images of the tranquil beauty that this verdant realm in Iran is. It’s vast forests and radiant green colors. Of course, a few pictures that I could browse don’t cover the full extent of the region, but it links you to the visions that inspired the artist. Mellow drones and calm, thudding drums bring on a trance-like feel. Intricate melodies weave through this flow of sound. There’s an aspect of dungeon synth present in that the music seems to be produced with the traditional software. The music is slightly different though. If only simply in the atmosphere that the sounds and patterns evoke.
On ‘Gathering’ I feel I can actually hear the oriental vibe. It’s the way the heavy reverb of the drum is followed by the cascading music, the little tang right after and the way it fills you with a sense of foreboding. It’s where you really realize that this is a different place when you stumble upon ancient ruins and imagine the sounds of those past places, obscured in the mists and fog of history. Mellow folk influences dance through the tunes, which really work the imagination.
There’s a serenity in the music of Varkâna, a peaceful spaciousness. Dream away with forgotten histories and far of lands with this piece of remarkable ambient music.
Label: Kunsthauch/Independent Band: Bròn Origin: New Zealand
The project Bròn originally released an album with a very natural vibe to it. It had the eerie magic of the night sky over the mountains as depicted on the cover of ‘Ànrach’ and I absolutely loved it. I wrote a little about previous release ‘Fògradh’ too. Bròn is the project of Krigeist, or Andrew Campbell, from New Zealand. Campbell relocated to Scotland and there’s a definite connection between that move and the sound of Bròn it seems. He also plays in the amazing Barshasketh and Belliciste.
I missed the fact that Bròn had become a prolific outlet for the musician in the past year, so high time to catch up with the astonishing 4 releases of last year. I was reminded of this, because of the live show I saw in Little Devil recently. All exploring new aspects of nature and different sounds that express that passion and beauty found there. So this is 4 reviews of one artist. Never do words like this do justice to the full force of these albums, but I feel that I need to cover all for completion.
Bròn – Зарђала Круна
January 2017 saw the release of this record, which sticks close to the familiar Bròn sound with a lot of soaring guitars and tremolo riffs. The inspiration comes from the devil in nature, that is the only info given. The choice for a Cyrillic font does say more than that though. A later notification on Facebook said that it was inspired by the Serbian wilderness and the darkness within. There’s a definite darkness to the Balkan forests that is caught in the looming, dark sound of this new EP. The untarnished sky above it at night, the shades of the trees.
The record is a multi-part atmospheric black metal piece, with a definite Burzum doom and gloom vibe to it and the grandeur of an Elderwind. The crisp clear production sometimes borders on overly polished but keeps on the right side of the track in all its overwhelming force. At other times it has the gentle trickling of an empty forest, where all you hear is the gentle sounds of the natural world around you. Pure magic and all of that in one long piece of over 32 minutes. Unfortunately, it’ll be the last black metal release, thus wrote Krigeist. His newer soundtracks take on different shapes.
Bròn – White City, Black Circle
Living in an urban environment requires a different soundtrack, wrote Krigeist on Facebook. He explained the sound of ‘Зарђала Круна’ while introducing this new release. The organic sound of the previous releases is vastly more fitting for the verdant realm indeed. The album signifies a radical turn in sound for Bròn. With a groove that is more triphop we enter the realm of tarmac and concrete, with lamp posts illuminating the grey jungle around you. Meandering between the aforementioned, synthwave and maybe a little dungeon synth, the sound is peculiar but fitting.
The titles are in Croation, referring to central themes revolving around that of Bròn (sorrow). It offers songs of those dark, nameless places we dwell in. Whether that’s a city in Croatia, Norway, Scotland or I wager even in New Zealand, there’s a sort of nameless grief there. The mixture of beats and ambient drones conveys that feeling very well. I particularly enjoy the mixture of that with the synths, which is always the sound of the urban environment. Towards the end of the record, the music is lighter, warmer as if the sun has broken through the smoggy haze. We leave the city here to the free part of the world.
Bròn – Ruins
On Ruins we find the same instrumentation, but a more Ulver or even folkish vibe at times with spun out tones and long passages of melancholic music. The music is calm and soothing and does, like the title tells you, remind of the tranquility you find in between forgotten ruins. That is also what the song titles refer to, to various locations of ancient ruins in corners of Europe, places that make you think and imagine. The vocals are gentle as well, almost chanting in a meditative way. The record even includes a folk cover ‘Twa Corbies’ from Scottish lore.
The sound has a clarity to it, everything is wavering and calm like an easy breeze. It’s almost like listening to an acoustic performance with various musicians, all delivering the minimal bits of sounds that make out the complete tapestry.For me, this might be the most beautiful album that Bròn has created this far. The music is so intricate, without ever sounding difficult or overly contrived. It’s a natural expression of the feeling in easy flowing, but still heavy music. After this record, Krigeist announced a hiatus for Bròn. That was definitely not meant to last after this june 2017 release.
Bròn – Where The Leaden Dawn Meets Iron Shores
A trip back to New Zealand was the impulse that Bròn needed. Krigeist was revitalized and inspired to make music again under that banner and three tracks expressing the untapped dark energies that dwell in New Zealand’s wild places. There is definite darkness on this album, which almost faded on ‘Ruins’. A long murmured intro with foreboding synths leads us into this new record. Eerie synths slither out of the speakers, while a creepy, scifi tune is played on the keys in the most bombastic tones.
But then there’s also the guitars and the screams. It would appear that Bròn comes full circle here and finds a sound that truly embraces the atmospheric output that Krigeist is looking for. The melancholy of the synths, combined with the harsh, ruggedness of the guitars. The ragged fury of the vocals, like that furious sea wind biting at you, while ver in motion on the waters. Three tracks tell the story that is both beautiful and grim at the same time. I guess it makes sense what Kant once said on the sublime in art, which really goes for nature. It’s overwhelming force can overwhelm us with awe and wonder in a sense. This is well conveyed in this piece of music by Bròn, which I really enjoy.
Let’s see what the future holds for this explorer in both the geographic and artistic realms.
They’ve done it again, those Polish space rockers Spaceslug. After their solid record ‘Time Travel Dilemma’ that came out earlier this year and 2016 endeavor ‘Lemanis’, here is the third album by this band, titled Mountains & Reminiscence. A mighty release that sees these guys steer in a new direction musically.
Surely, Stranger Aeons has covered work of this band before. I loved those records (which you can read here and here) and even had a chat with these gents. This album is even more exciting, for the grand artwork of a glorious mountain (I love rocks) and a sound that seems to have turned more earthy. I’m amazed that these guys still do everything themselves, though it allows for a lot of creative freedom and amazing artwork it seems.
The album opens with the solid, heavy riffs of ‘Bemused and Gone’. Surely, the spacy vibe is still there, but the bass seems more crunchy, dirtier than before. The soaring guitar is still there, but it also seems to have been touched by gravity. The drawled out vocals are in perfect harmony with those guitar parts and create a big soaring feel to the whole music. Where you used to have this cosmic experience, now we’re moving over mountain tops. We’re within the atmosphere on ‘Elephemeral’, with that wonderful wailing guitar.
There’s more distortion and more clashing in the sound, whilst maintaining that particular slow, sluggish vibe that is so typical for the band on a track like ‘Space Sabbath’. The nuances of the sound are more firm and hit home solidly on this amazingly good record. Well, the song is a space song obviously, with fragments of ‘2001: A Space Odissey’ towards the end (the famous HAL interaction). We end on a climactic note with ‘Opposite The Sun’, a track that does embody a certain sense of drama and grandeur that most of the Spaceslug songs lack in their slow progression. It’s nice to see these gents explore their sound further on another fantastic release.
Label: Murder on Ponce (though this appears self-released) Band: ElixiR Origin: France
I’m not certain about the release date of this album. It’s good though, so check it out.
To the forests and hills with ElixiR
Dungeon Synth becomes really special if you listen to some true story tellers like ElixiR. ‘Les Tours du Temps’ is a re-recording of the music on the earlier ‘Moonlight on Black Castle’ and ‘The Mage of the Bright Forest’ EPs. It’s really slow, melancholic dungeon synth but with a natural feel to the sound compared to the original releases.
ElixiR formed in 2015 in the French Dordogne Valley. Thomas Elixir creates the music and is the one behind the project. He holds a fascination by medieval legends and fantasy universes. He takes a lot of inspiration from the ancient ruins and landscape of Aquitaine. The cover already tells you as much. Other inspirations are acts like Burzum and Erang for the French musician.
The music of ElixiR is clearly meant to be enjoyed at peace since it passes with barely any strain or force. It just trickles by in the way you let the pages of a good fantasy book flow by, entranced by what you’re experiencing. The sounds are gentle and paint images of simple, clean lands. Of nature and all its detailed splendor. The motto of ElixiR is not without reason ‘Nothing is Sacred, Only Nature’ (the next release ElixiR is planning).
Thomas paints in different colours and lets the tones really fade out to create a full, warm sound. A tune like ‘La Lisière’ is a good demonstration of that art, of the flowing notes that come close to a pan flute. It often has a bit of that Peruvian flute feeling, the tranquility and calm of a world free of human beings. Even more so on ‘A Quiet House in the Wood’ it seems that this is a very personal Walden. Though the music sounds as in minor tones, sadness doesn’t describe the sound. When the notes hit a feeling of peace wafts over you. This is a very enjoyable dungeon synth release and though I still find it hard to describe this sort of music, it is much like reading long, descriptive pieces of fantastic lands and the beautiful landscapes you’ve never seen. ElixiR gives a glow to the story telling.