“If you are a false, don’t entry!” And if you are a false, do enter, because the only rule of this weekly section, in which we present you three short blurbs on music we are currently listening to, is that we are under no circumstance allowed to press the enter key. All of these little reviews shall thus consist of one paragraph only. The more this rule renders the blurb illegible, the more the writer has failed. Check back every Friday for a fresh haul of Don’t Enter.
We do not typically concern ourselves with the latest and the greatest, precisely because the latest all too often is not the greatest at all. However, 2015 has been promising so far, so who are we to refrain from giving you a quick round-up of some of the terrific releases that have been thrown our way so far? Black Ivory Tower, that’s fucking who. Luckily for you, we are in a particularly generous mood this week. So have some kick-ass music, you lucky bugger.
| (Isa) – Отход на закате (Departure at sunset) | Russia, 2015
Isa was one of the three bands featured on the Spletenye split album, which by itself would have been enough to provide the band with enough credit to last a lifetime. Fortunately, their contribution to that magnificent collaboration was not a lucky shot, as is attested to by their new full-length Otchod na zakate. Like on Spletenye and Isa‘s own debut Pesny mërtvych (Songs of the dead), Otchod na zakate sees the Siberian collective offer songs that are a tad simplistic on the compostional side, with each track mostly sticking to variations on one or two movements. But more than ever, Isa‘s rich instrumentation helps the band create a looming, mysterious timbre that imbues its sound with the fiery beauty implied by the lyrical content. As a consequence, with Otchod na zakate Isa takes yet another step away from black metal and towards dark and neofolk. Traditional instruments such as the flute and the bayan demanding more prominence, all the while choral keyboards weave an undercurrent of perilous ambience underneath the simple metal structures. As a result, the listener is forced to surrender to the raw forces of nature that are summoned by the music, an obligation which reveals the project’s Romantic character. With Otchod na zakate, Isa comes ever closer to striking a perfect balance between folk and metal influences, making this album not only the band’s best release to date, but also the single most refreshing “metallised folk” album (in lack of a better term) released in 2015 thus far. Fear not, dear reader: the “folk metal” element here has nothing to do with the odious LARP soundtracks of famed abonimations such as Korpiklaani and Finntroll; rather, we are offered a genuine musical exploration of the artist’s home soil. Isa show beauty in a genre dominated by ugliness; where most bands wallow in marshlands, Isa stand in the midst of endless rye fields. May the sun shine brightly upon them for many years to come. |Degtyarov
Paganland – Fatherland | Ukraine, 2015
Even though Lvov’s Paganland was formed as early as 1997, their April release Fatherland is only their second album. This is worth noting because Fatherland indeed sounds like you would expect a Ukrainian black/folk metal album from the late nineties to sound like: a dedication to atmosphere over brutality, omnipresent keyboards and patriotic lyrics throw us back to the early days of legends such as Nokturnal Mortum. It is, however, by no means a bad thing that Fatherland is an aural time capsule. Quite to the contrary: over the past years, Slavonic metal bands have been dedicating themselves to daring experiments – Kamaedzitca made a house album, Nokturnal Mortum covered The Moody Blues, and Drudkh recorded a post-rock album with renowned Alcest frontwoman Neige. So listening to a band that plays a glorious, keyboard-laden and slightly cheesy blend of black and folk feels like coming home and cracking open a can of your favourite regular beer (see header image), refined tastes be damned. Said analogy does not come without its own implications, as this type of music is best enjoyed with a crisp beer that will wash away any petty blemishes. Perfectly on-key vocals? Who needs ’em… In summation, Fatherland is a highly enjoyable throwback to the uncomplicated melodies of ’90s Slavonic black/folk metal. Moreover, it is an excellent gateway for those who wish to learn how to appreciate said style. Paganland‘s music is charmingly rough-around-the-edges and not intended for decerebrated dick-riders whose weakened immune systems cannot handle a healthy dose of patriotism and cheese. |Degtyarov
Zhaoze – 沉醉不知处 (Intoxicatingly lost) | China, 2015
Ahh, Zhaoze. This hugely underrated Chinese formation always delivers. Not necessarily because they keep outdoing themselves (1911 still stands as their best release), but for the reason of expanding their musical scope with each release. They consistently enrich their repertoire with novel influences and provide fresh perspectives on their already enticing base formula of post-rock and Chinese traditional music. Whereas the afore-mentioned chef-d’oeuvre 1911 sought to interweave these two elements to a meticulous degree, their 2015 single Intoxicatingly lost rather presents them in a more dichotomised fashion. Initially, the composition follows a cadence akin to post-rock (though enriched with the legendary guqin instrument). Then, exactly halfway into the 12-minute song, the traditional side of Zhaoze emerges in full splendour as the drums and bass now also pulsate in honour of the literally mythical musical legacy of the Middle Kingdom. It is a marvellous transformation that helps display the wealth of Zhaoze‘s sound in a single track. If you are guilty of the heinous crime of having ignored this band so far, then Intoxicatingly lost offers a formidable introduction to Zhaoze’s world; no doubt it will reel you in. |Degtyarov
Note: Paganland promo provided by Svarga