Album Review: Ciemra — “The Tread of Darkness”

Ciemra is Belarusian for “Darkness” no matter how many times my auto-correct wants it to be Chimera, so let’s get that straight. It’s also the name for a quintet out of Minsk intent on adding their name to the hallowed halls of black metal with their debut full-length The Tread of Darkness. One look at the logo, the black and white artwork and you won’t be shocked to hear the kind of music the band is putting out: this is a hybrid of everything in the last 30 years of the genre. Take a minute to soak in that we’ve had black metal for over 30 years, and then jump into the meat of this review to see if Ciemra live up to the long history they deep into with their debut.

There’s no reinvention of the black metal wheel here, but what’s there is a buzzing and more than serviceable album that takes some of the punk and speed elements of second wave black metal, a dash of DSBM a la bands like Forgotten Tomb, and then envelops it in a lot of mid pace riffing reminiscent of a lot of more modern bands that endeavor the keep the faith of TRVE mental alive. So you’re getting about what you’d expect, and I’d hazard that’s not a bad thing here. You get acoustic passages, spoken word sections, a smattering of clean vocals, and then of course the traditional tremolo picking, vocals thick with dust and age, and a healthy disrespect for anything even resembling the light of religion. The opening title track feels a little too sedate for its beginning moments; thankfully it gets more aggressive as it moves along.

It may seem as though I’m giving Ciemra short shrift here, but not every band has to reinvent the genre. What the band does it does really, really well. “Vomiting Void” has a lilting sense of swamp doom to its opening moments before digging into a charging palm-muted chugging riff that gets the body moving with a melody often missing from the band’s peers. I’ve seen comparisons to bands like Necrophobic and Mgła, and I guess if you squint your ears you can hear it (particular with Necrophobic’s penchant for melody and solos) but if anything there’s a darker, more somber tome at play on The Tread of Darkness that recalls to my ears moments of Gaerea or the more melodic moments of fellow label mates Inherits the Void. When they lean into that more morose sound like on single “Serpent’s” I find myself more and drawn to what the band is doing.


I could tell you that Ciemra channel the inner fury and turmoil their home has been privy to for so many years. I could tell you that The Tread of Darkness wallows in the black night of anti-religion, of lost hope and despair and finds there a coiled spark of anger that drives their music into secret regions. But that’s all mush mouth reviewer talk – there are a hundred sites dedicated to re-mouthing promos and showing off their ability to use the related sections of their favored music service. I’m tired of all that, so let me end by saying that Ciemra fold a lot of different influences into some good but absolutely derivative black metal that’s nonetheless effective at making you punch your head, air guitar to the solos, or just ponder life in the dark of your bedroom.

Is that enough color for you?


The Tread of Darkness will be available February 24 on Avantgarde Music. For more information on Ciemra, check out their Facebook and Instagram pages.

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