Those who have missed out on our recent Facebook messages will be glad to know that we are currently working on rebooting Black Ivory Tower sometime this summer. The format will be expanded, the site will get a tremendous overhaul, and perhaps we might even have some merchandise prepared. To kill the time until that joyful moment arrives when metal writing will be great again, here are some records that I (Degtyarov) have been listening to as of late. See it as a sort of ‘Don’t Enter’ instalment, but even more impulsive and unfiltered. See you soon!
Now let me put on my sunglasses so I can see what the fuck I’m doing.
Nechochwen – Heart of Akamon | US, 2015
This album is a good example of how the thematic approach of a lot of modern metal boils down to plain marketing. Nechochwen as a project is supposedly themed after Native American culture, but the music bears more resemblance with indie rock, albeit with a heavier sound and more stretched-out compositions. Regardless of this band’s attempts to pass itself off as one of those abundant nature-inspired black metal projects, their music sounds so urban that you expect it to move into your neighbourhood and drive the housing prices through the roof. The musicianship is excellent on a purely technical level, so it is far from unlistenable; I can even understand why this would be enjoyable to a certain audience. However, the musical content does not match the thematic packaging, and the band’s presentation just makes the entire project come across as a big, transparent gimmick. Props to these guys, though, for finding a fashionable way to be passionate about their homeland while still being accepted by the oikophobic dimwits of the American metal press.
Piarevaracien – Spadčyna | Belarus, 2016
A friend once joked that Russian (and by extension Belarusian) music is 90% rock or metal mixed with folk. This is not completely accurate, but as Piarevaracien‘s new album Spadčyna (EN: ‘Heritage’) confirms, Slavs do like to mix folk with, well, anything. In the case of Piarevaracien — whose name I totally didn’t copy to my clipboard, because I am smart and cultured — traditional Belarusian music encounters electronic music. Synths and light beats accompany the female choral singing that is so typical of the country’s traditional peasant songs. The whole experience is very light-hearted, especially by Belarusian standards — just compare this album to the laments sampled on Kamaedzitca‘s xQzTN 3087. Easy listening doesn’t get much more facile than this, although the bagpipe is an occasional distraction because it is so off-key and badly handled. In fact, if you hear a bagpipe in any style of music, the odds are literally around 85% that the instrument isn’t tuned properly or the musician can’t even play it (usually both). Fortunately its presence is limited, and the remainder of the album makes for some laid-back enjoyment.
Wilderun – Sleep at the edge of the Earth | US, 2015
Just to clarify, I’m not one of those people who enjoys panning albums for the hell of it. In fact, it annoys me to no end when yet another shitty writer tries to be some kind of Metal Maddox and thinks it’s smart to say the only use of the CD in question is for it to be abused as a coaster. With Wilderun‘s latest album Sleep at the edge of the Earth receiving a ridiculous amount of praise from the metal press (Angry Metal Guy even declared it the Album of the Year 2015), I do however feel obliged to offer much-needed counterbalance by pointing out these 54 minutes of music are not even remotely decent. Wilderun‘s shtick supposedly is a mix of symphonic metal and folk metal, but rather it is just reliably pompous symphonic metal that frequently forays into melodeath, brotastic breakdowns and blatant party rock to make sure the last remaining enclaves of good taste are massacred. The first part of the album is divided into a handful of tracks collectively (and pretentiously) subtitled as “Ash Memory” parts I – IV. Even when isolated from one another, these tracks barely show the coherency required to pass them off as actual compositions as opposed to random riffs slapped together to increase the running time. Transitions between different sections of each song are either bad or plain absent; the band just latches on to a new train of thought every minute without developing tension or a consistent arch. As if things aren’t overbearing enough at this point, the second half of the album contains songs that are up to 11 minutes in length. By now the point should be clear: rather than something that would qualify as a record of the year, this is a mish-mash of countless separate units of music that are bound only by their cringeworthy Operetta-like glee. This is metal for people who have their Facebook profiles set to Pirate talk. This is metal for people who have a browser plug-in that changes Trump’s name to Drumpf and hold this to be the epitome of hilarity. This is metal for people who go to Abbath shows to enjoy his retarded stage antics. This is a cheesefest so overblown that it makes the French smell nice in comparison. With all this in mind, the increasingly popular notion that you should only enjoy metal with ironic detachment, dude, because it is “supposed to be cheesy” is much easier to contextualise once you realise everyone who claims this also worships kitschy, unhinged garbage such as this. Don’t let the Romantic album art fool you into thinking this bombastic turd has anything to do with traditional music or nature-inspired metal in the vein of the Slavic greats, and spend those 7 dollars on better things. Like coasters. Fuck.
Molat – Bel-a-rok | Belarus, 2016
After ditching their Apraxia project, Molat was formed and the band started out playing oi. On their second album, Uvaskrashenne heroyu, they introduced a heavy folk influence, most prominently translated by the bagpipe. However, the severely offkey singing on the album and the lacking compositions were too off-putting to make for an enjoyable listening experience. However, their third and fourth albums — Pahonya da novay ery (2012) and Molatakryzh (2014) raised this band’s profile, offering a fine blend of folk rock, metal and oi, with harsh vocals and great instrumentation. It was volatile, aggressive music that would be the soundtrack of choice to beat down hippies to (in self-defence or in a boxing ring — I am a man of peace, don’t worry). Sadly, their new record Bel-a-rok is a fall from grace that throws the band back to the level of 2010’s Uvaskrashenne heroyu. The compositions are simpler, the solos are less impressive, the singing is off-key and the bagpipe segments put the ‘dud’ back in ‘duda’. One notable exception is the (sort-of) title track “Bely rok”, a fast-paced, belligerent re-interpretation of one of their demo tracks, but apart from that gem it is better to stick to their infinitely superior previous two albums.
Kawir – Father Sun Mother Moon | Greece, 2016
Followers of Black Ivory Tower will know that Kawir are among our favourite black metal bands, so expectations for their new record, Father Sun Mother Moon, were higher than [insert joke pertaining to Ancient Greece here, I really can’t be fucking bothered anymore] at BIT HQ. While Father Sun Mother Moon is not a bad record, and while on rare occasions it is able to reach the stellar heights of Isotheos, it is an undeniable step down from said masterpiece. With the addition of more folk instruments and more drawn-out compositions, this album should have been able to at least give us some more imperishable classics such as “Poseidon” and “Hymn to Apollo”, but apart from the amazing “Hail to the three shaped goddess” we are left with a record that, in spite of the band’s musical prowess, is fairly forgettable in comparison to Ophiolatreia and Isotheos. A weak Kawir record is still a good record in general, and the more populist, folk-oriented approach to their own sound will undoubtedly deliver them some long, long overdue fame, but those expecting another classic will have to remain patient and hope Kawir get their act together for their next album. Oh well, at least the piper actually knows how to fucking play his instrument for once.
Read a full review by me here.