This year in metal got off to a bit of a slow start for me, with the first two months not offering anything that I care to remember for this feature. Then, the ball got rolling, and now that we’re closing in on July, there’s enough good stuff to craft my two cents out of.
First, I present to you my favourite three releases (in a particular order).
3. Forteresse – Thèmes pour la rébellion
Although there is no chance that you, the erudite reader, have missed out on my full review of Forteresse‘s latest album, here is a friendly though urgent reminder that you should acquire Thèmes pour la rébellion through legal channels. Why? It is a tight package of fast, melodic riffing that deserves your support. That’s why, you cheeky bugger. The album can be overbearing on occasions, but sometimes the world just needs uncompromisingly loud and fast black metal, lest we forget this genre is not supposed to make you feel comfortable. Au combat!
2. Sivyj Yar – The Unmourned Past
While Sivyj Yar is gradually accruing some well-deserved underground fame, it can never hurt to point out that this one-man project has put out a new release. Okay, so it’s not a fat, tasty full-length like last year’s Burial Shrouds, but their new two-track EP The Unmourned Past offers 21 minutes of material that easily ranks among the band’s best work to date. Combining the lingering nostalgia of Slavic black metal with a tasteful amount of post-black catchiness, the band is able to charm both icy and detached black metal purists such as moi and NYC hipsters such as toi. Once more, Sivyj Yar proves why it is set to become Russia’s premier black metal export.
1. Piarevaracien – U pošukach pačatku tych šlachoŭ
Piarevaracien‘s new folk metal album contains 36 minutes of killer riffs, memorable melodies and balanced production. However, the true brilliance of this release resides in how these already promising aspects are weaved into a rock-solid narrative (both musically and thematically). Excellent song-writing and lyrics that actually mean something intertwine, making U pošukach pačatku tych šlachoŭ the best metal album released in 2016 so far. In case you skipped your evening classes in romanised Belarusian because you were too busy trimming your beard and drinking IPAs, the title means Searching For the Beginning of Those Ways. There, that’s enough info. Now just go get this album before my fist intertwines with your face.
Kawir – Father Sun Mother Moon
This is a good album, but Kawir is expected to deliver something stellar, as they did with their previous two albums: Ophiolatreia (2008) and Isotheos (2012). In comparison with those classics, Father Sun Mother Moon has too much filler, with drawn-out songs outstaying their welcome more than once. Still, this hour of music contains approximately 40 minutes of good material, and that’s probably more than whatever crap you’re listening to as you read this.
Wode – Wode
Normally, orthodox black metal gets my manly and necessarily sizeable boxershorts in a twist because it is conceptually the same as pseudo-philosophical Christian music, yet with any mention of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ scrapped in exchange for a namedrop of The One Who Roasts Rectums. Call it Faith -1. Blabbering aside, Wode circumvents these pet peeves both because their songs aren’t filled to the grim brim with pretend-spooky (and grammatically incorrect) Latin bullshit, and because of their meticulous, polished song-writing. It’s still not quite down my elevated alley, but definitely don’t let my consistent and superior sense of aesthetics stop you from giving this fine record a proverbial spin. [Thanks to Dean Brown of The Quietus for bringing this band to my attention.]
Jar – Jatvieź
Contrary to Finland, widely recognised as the aural asshole of the world, Belarus knows how to produce tasteful folk metal. Such is proven not only by the abovementioned Piarevaracien, but also by Jar (pronounced Yar, so keep your no-doubt hilarious puns to yourself). Jar’s music includes heavy use of the gusli, a traditional Slavic string instrument. The gusli produces a more potent, in-your-face take on the sound of a harp, and its use by bands such as Jar and Isa proves that it should replace any instance of the neurotic, lowly and mephistophelean abomination also knows as the saxophone in metal. While the gusli also helps lift Jatvieź‘s middle and final sections to considerable heights, the first few tracks are not nearly as captivating, hence the album’s mere ‘honourable mention’. Of course hat-tips by me are still a veritable honour because I generally hate everything, and yes, that includes your ugly mug.