Sunday, 28 March 2010

Vostok - From Lofty Peaks [ALBUM REVIEW]

1. From Lofty Peaks
2. Badbea
3. The Last Days of Autumn
4. Leaving

The Scottish black metal scene has been producing a lot of notable upcoming bands somewhat of recent times, from a scene which was basically non existent circa ten years ago. From Askival's emphatic debut last year to the 'Velvet Cacoon' idolatry of 'In Vino Veritas', it has certainly been flourishing of recent times. This short EP is from another new project, 'Vostok'. The music envelopes everything from the twisted black end of funeral doom to the antagonistic wailing of Shining and short passages of clean picking. I'm not sure sure if it is what's intended, but this EP gives me the impression of 'In the Woods' except with a shedload more malignance and shorter songs.

The first track 'From Lofty Peaks...' is an introduction, and my stance on introductions on ninety percent of black metal albums is the same, pointless and to fill up space. Although being an EP, that can be forgiven because there's no real point to trying to fill up room on one. It consists of a two minute dirge, more reminiscent of Candlemass suprisingly than anything else. Towards the middle a nifty guitar lead appears and sounds almost as if it's coming from well... a 'lofty peak' before Hamish, the lone hand behind the project, vomits out something completely incomprehensible. A very fitting introduction to the EP, although I do feel the second half could have been put to better use incorporated into another full length song instead. 'Badbea', the longplayer of the disc, starts off with a short picked section before you are blown back by the drums and riffing which can only be likened to a black metal jack-hammer, the riffing is mid-paced and ominous, and vocals an anguished howl. The pace is dropped towards the second half where the music becomes a twisted maelstrom of harrowing cries and funeral dirges. Definitely the highlight of the EP. 'The Last Days of Autumn' is a lot less direct at the beginning, a light, buoyant melody for the first half of the song before we are reintroduced to the misery of before. The main riff that sees out this song is absolutely pulverising, an undulating grind that imprisons the tortured wails buried beneath it, trapping everything in the agony. Closer 'Leaving' is suitably titled, closing out the EP, best described an occult wake drenched in feedback and filth, even more petrifying than it's predecessor.

The production I must add is extremely fitting. A clean production would completely ruin music like this, but Hamish has opted for a largely claustrophobic atmosphere, highly compressed and burying the reverberated vocals in the mix, which adds highly to the mood being conveyed. The guitars are extremely distorted and fuzzy, the traditional 'beehive in an amp' sound as is commonplace these days, and Hamish has clear talent on his guitar, a lot more than can be said for a lot of bands pertaining to this style of music. The drumming is competent enough, with a nice organic feel to it, a lot more preferable to the sterile drum machine so oft used everywhere these days. The bass is also quite distinct, which again is nice to see for a change.

All in all, this is an extremely good release, of which I can't find really anything to dislike about. If I was going to nit-pick, I would have made the first song/intro longer, but other than wishing the actual release had more material, I can find nothing wrong. Another extremely fine release for the genre from Scotland, I can't wait to see what else the genre has to offer this year.



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