Monday, 13 February 2012
[ALBUM REVIEW] Zgard - Spirit of Carpathian Sunset
Genre - Pagan Black Metal
4. Destiny Molphar
5. About Russ
6. Stream of Memory
7. Eruption of Anger
8. Autumn Buried the Ground
9. Spirit of Carpathian Mountains
10. Misty Skyline
Folky Slavic black metal is a vast subgenre in the all encompassing world of black metal, there’s an immeasurable number of bands that tread a precarious line between the unassailable status of Kroda and self parodying cheese . Sifting through the crap can be laborious, but when occasionally coming across a band like Zgard, it does have its rewards.
Spirit of Carpathian Sunset, the first of a duo of albums released by these Ukrainians, and upon first glimpse it’s damn near impossible not to be completely absorbed by the absolutely stunning artwork. One thing’s for sure, it’s certainly a fitting embodiment for the music on display here. Championed as recapturing the early pagan fire of Nokturnal Mortum and being among the finest in Slavic black metal today, it’s an audacious statement of intent for a band so new.
As is standard, the album kicks off with a token scene setting intro containing a menagerie of instruments I’d have severe trouble pronouncing never mind naming them. Such is the case for the whole album, the folky atmospheric aspect is hugely significant in Zgard’s sound, so much so occasionally it seems they’ve altogether forgot about the metal side of things. The folk instrumentation ends up completely overwhelming everything else at times mainly due to the lack of any sort of bass presence whatsoever and the paper thin guitars. The music noticeably suffers from this.
Looking beyond these dilemmas though and Spirit of Carpathian Sunset isn’t without its highs. The extended passages of meandering folk blended with traditional churning tremolo riffs and abrasive (if slightly one dimensional) vocals hark back to Kroda’s classic material and have more than enough for avid fans of the genre to sift through. Tracks like “Svarga” and “Destiny Molphar” are diverse and rewarding listens if given the time but more often than not I found the songs beginning to wander directionless and trailing off without leaving much of a lasting impression. It’s when the band crank the metal up a notch that they really begin to show their colours though, the aptly titled “Eruption of Anger” is just that; flat out brutality to remind you that you’re listening to metal and not some ambient forest sounds CD.
The similarities with early Nokturnal Mortum are there, sans the horribly dated keyboards and crucial hooks. All things considered I can’t help but wonder how much better this would have sounded had a touch more focus been placed upon the metal end of the spectrum, because when they do up the ante it sounds a lot sharper. Regardless, Spirit of Carpathian Sunset for its shortcomings shows a lot of promise and holds the attention more than long enough to fill a gap. As for its staying power though, that remains to be seen.
Originally written for Metalcrypt