You already know I love music from around the globe. I love listening to the way different countries shape the worldview of the people living in them and their own unique metal scene, and after some time of waiting, I can finally put a pin in Lithuania on my map of the world, thanks to Erdve and their stunning new stomper Savigaila. I don’t often advertise my feelings on an album before the cut, but, then again, I also don’t tend to review albums I think I’m going to hate; this, however, surprised me in the best way possible.
Established in 2016 in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius, the trio consists of established veterans of Lithuania’s metal scene, both in live shows and in the underground tape trade, which is always a nice thing to hear being alive and well. Erdve’s mission statement is to forge a uniquely heavy sound that experiments with sludge, hardcore and black metal without being beholden to any of the strict trappings of genre. They achieve this through the classic one-two audio-visual punch of stunning cinematics (check out their polarizing music video for “Sugretinimas,” which, for the record, I think is equal parts brilliant and horrifying) and crushingly heavy music that deals with extremely upsetting topics like domestic violence, crimes against humanity, extremism and all other forms of disgusting behavior. To top it off, all of the music and visuals are completely controlled by the band, from the writing and recording to the mixing and mastering to the directing and shooting of their videos and even creating the cover art. Fronting the band and spearheading all these projects simultaneously is mastermind Vaidotas Darulis, whose artistic touch is felt at every single corner of the project and whose goal on Savigaila (which translates to “self-pity”) is to tap into the feeling of overcoming the unsettling challenges of reality, which given the year and change that we’ve all had and still have, is a theme that is going to cut very close to home.
Savigaila, while being recognizable as a blend of sludge, hardcore and black metal, reads as a hardcore album first and foremost. This thing is crushingly heavy, and that is the first note in the flavor profile. Opening track and lead single “Lavondėmės” hits like being flattened by a steamroller, with crunchy riff after crunchy riff and pounding drums seemingly mixed to make your head explode. It takes a track for the album to open up, but if you can survive the initial onslaught, the next song “Smala” sees the band shift into more melodic territory. Don’t get it twisted: this song and the rest of the album are still punishingly heavy, but the sonic palette opens up with unexpectedly haunting and beautiful notes. The aggression is mellowed out by lighter interludes that help cement the themes of the album with melancholic atmosphere before more ferocity invades your ears. It feels like an extremely well-paced album in that regard: the musical ideas don’t come at you too fast, and everything has time to develop before the pace switches, which is great, because if this album had no breaks it would leak your brain out of your ears before you were halfway done with it.
There is something deeply alluring in the depths that Savigaila sinks to. Even on my second listen, it almost seems like a different album entirely. All that harshness that is at once apparent settles out and mellows into something that is quite beautiful and begs repeated listens. Giving it a little more time might make this the upset to my running year end list that I was hoping for from something, but not exactly this album. Savigaila is an album that needs to be experienced, and by more than one sense at that.