It’s February 2018 already and still, I am gonna take you back in time for another ride into the underground. You should have got used to the fact that I do what I do as opposed to others because for me, time is irrelevant especially when it comes to art. If something is good, then it should be honoured no matter how “old” it is. In this sense, I’ve prepared this fresh double CD recommendation featuring Goholor and Zakaz, as well as their 2016 harvest. Special regards to Schattenkult Produktionen for supplying the physical material. Shall we?
Slovakia is famous for a number of things related to nature, its geographical location as well as rich cultural background. For instance, the opulence of castles, or outnumbering caves spread across its lands are just a few of the remarkable facts about a country that’s not often under the highlights. Anyway, you are not here for the sightseeing tour, I presume, so let’s get to the point. There is an arguably non-popular or rather far side to the mainstream culture speaking of this country, and that’s underground metal. Think about how many Slovakian bands you can count just now and then, say, we pick Germany. Got my point? So in this sense, I’d like to get you familiar with the only album (so far) of black/death trio Goholor whose lifespan is staggeringly brief; however, it delivers on quality big fucking time!
“In Saeculis Obscuris” embodies 4 full-bodied tracks that sum up 16 minutes of playtime. Its awfully short duration can be compared to raising Hell on earth and watching demonic entities rip apart humans everywhere. Yup, it’s as sweet and bloody intense as that but multiplied by two. Honestly, for a totally unknown act like Goholor, the material they conceived equals veteran quality in nearly every facet!
Firstly, this EP does not reinvent the wheel by any means and I don’t think Goholor meant to go that direction anyway. Instead, the song-writing went entirely into building a colossal track list that unleashes the most out of the black/death metal sub-genre at its pristine state. Its quintessence of frantic brutality leaves no instant where you can take a breath and feel safe. For me, this is an ideal instance of “in your face” sonic bestiality hammering down mainstream bullcrap that’s presently marketed as “the next big thing.” So what exactly gets me pumped up that much, I hear you silently ask.
Well, the stellar grasp of composing aggressive material that resonates with the beast inside, comes in the first place. No matter that the compositions are of no outlandish character, they still managed to ignite me through the mature instrumental performance and orgiastic vocal ranges. Simply put, this stuff speaks the tongue of destruction in the most fluent manner and if you are on the same page, headbanging is inevitable.
From the onslaught of blast beats or the pummeling riffage injecting madness incessantly and those towering growls blending with demonic shrieks; all of it speaks of utter desecration and violent depopulation in possibly the most gruesome way one could imagine. Expect nothing short but mid to fast-paced rhythms that expose the high skillset of these Slovakians to channel fury into music. But if that’s not enough to make you give the EP a try, let me say the following.
“In Saeculis Obscuris” offers a nearly flawless production no matter what angle you’d take a look at. It is a delight to headbang to the crystal clear sound making evident the carefully laid out layers that build each track. Even though for the most of the time I was busy whipping my hair, I did stumble upon a moment in the 2nd track “Naberius Daemon” that did not make sense. It was a quick but noticeable blackout of the guitars due to a single but louder blast of the drums. I assume it was overlooked in the mixing & mastering stage. On the other hand, though, it is a small fraction against many incredible merits that this EP possesses.
Last but definitely not the least is the cover art. Not too shabby, overall. It gets the message across even though it could have been way more detailed for a greater visual impact. Still, I like it better than the following opus’ image that I am about to present.
Finally, it won’t strike you as surprised that I resoundingly approve and recommend “In Saeculis Obscuris” in view of all the praise I’ve given. Make no mistake and spend some time with this record and you’ll see what a rewarding experience it is.
Released 31st January 2016 in collaboration with Symbol of Domination.
Note: Before we move onwards, I’d like to let you know that the next album is available for free download through Bandcamp. Just use the player below to grab your free digital copy.
Icelandic black metal quartet Zakaz have challenged my patience, to be honest. At first listen, I thought to myself that their debut was lacking inspiration and I nearly gave up on it. For the goodness of my reason, though, I did not do so and gave it a few more spins because something on the back of my head told me that I was missing the picture. Eventually, I realized how wrong I was in the beginning for “Myrkur og Dauði” is like an opium whose effect takes place with a delay. With every following play through, the album grew on me to a point that I forgot that several hours had passed just like that.
“Myrkur og Dauði” is an intimate experience of engulfing sorrow that takes the listener amidst the chilling landscapes of Iceland. It literally translates “Darkness and Death“; though, the 8-piece track list does not justify the sinister title as it is quite the opposite, in fact. In its extreme nature, Zakaz encompass profound emotions weaving around mellow arrangements that push just the right buttons to trigger your mind. The music itself has that glaring ability to take your attention away from its unintricate structure and turn your focus towards the deep of the human imagination. This is where things get incredible because once you let the album in, it unfolds entirely into a staggering vision.
“Patience is a virtue” applies with full force when it comes to understanding Zakaz’s debut accurately. You will definitely need to give it more than a single go in order to get under your skin. That’s primarily due to the overly simplistic compositions, which at first listen are likely to leave you unimpressed. However, if you are for up for the long haul, then you will be rewarded appropriately. By the way, let’s not forget that black metal was never meant to be easy in general, so you know the drill..
Back to the point leading me to the instrumentals. Overall, Zakaz bounce between mid to slow tempos, offering a bunch of hooks here and there that are mostly about the melodic interludes. All in all, it narrows down to classic tremolo picking seasoned in the oldschool vein. So far so good. The drumming sets an appropriate tone for the intended atmosphere and frames ideally the whole package. Again, it does not reach new heights speaking of technicality yet keeps the rest instrumental segments tightly together and that’s totally enough for me. After all, a good instrumental is not defined by its complexity but rather how influencing it is on the listener.
Additionally, I highly appreciate the extra effort for bringing the extra melodic flavours that break up the dullness spotted every once in a while. Another point of interest is the awesome execution of the bass. I absolutely adore the deepness of it whose effect serves as a magnificent support for the rest instruments in such a way that they sound powerful and united.
Now, the real magic that literally transforms “Myrkur og Dauði” from an “OK” first try into an excellent atmospheric black metal full-length is the non-extreme ingredients. It’s weird, isn’t it? Especially when considering that this genre’s backbone used to be its bestial nature. Anyhow, Zakaz have undertaken just the right direction that improves tremendously their debut with the inclusion of acoustic passages and ritualistic chants. With that infusion, everything about this record changes due to its evocative presence. Moreover, it feels richer, vastly more enchanting and solidified as an atmospheric record, with subtle touch-ups like the ethereal violin that gently caresses one’s senses. Or the surprisingly well performed choir singing adding more to the mystifying aura embracing the whole album. In addition, the mellow acoustic guitar blends contribute immensely to the Icelandic quartet’s ability to evoke detailed imagery.
Production-wise, I am generally satisfied with how things turned out to be. There were a few times that I found the harsh vocals to be a bit more hazy than usual especially the shrieks, but that’s not so obvious. What makes up for that is the shifting approach of vocal styles involving deep growls that make the previously mentioned imperfection dramatically less evident. Other than that, I think the mixing and mastering have been done good enough, achieving the clarity that I need in order to enjoy myself fully.
The next stage that concerned me a lot and couldn’t just bypass is the cover artwork. As a CD collector, this is almost equally important for me as the content inside the package. It is mind-boggling why Zakaz chose to go with this extremely unattractive image. Not only is it so poorly designed but it also does not communicate on the same language as the songs do, as it were. They just don’t match. It’s more like having a CD of a mediocre indie rock band. Hell, it would have been better if these guys had put on the cliché dark forest than this.
In the end of the day, despite its minor faults and strikingly terribly bad cover artwork, “Myrkur og Dauði” has got everything it takes to make me re-play it over and over again. It’s mystifying character, decent musicianship and production make it a pleasure to listen to multiple times. Certainly, not an easy debut but it does get better if you give it more than a single go.
Released 15th March 2016
One more thing before we wrap things up. I’d like to remind you that I post random short updates on Twitter and Google+. Join me there for additional spoils. Oh, and also there is SBM’s Soundcloud page where you can find a wide range of playlists with selected black metal from all around the globe.