KZOHH – Trilogy: Burn Out the Remains
Label: Ashen Dominion
Some of my favorite black metal releases over the years have come from the Ukraine (Blood of Kingu and Drudkh definitely come to mind here). Many Ukrainian bands have experimented with different sounds, mixing them into black metal, and creating something new and unique. KZOHH, a band consisting of members of Khors, Elderblood, Ulvegr, and Reusmarkt, carry on this tradition with their latest release, Trilogy: Burn Out the Remains.
Lyrically, KZOHH are focusing on pandemics, particularly the “Justinian Plague” and the “Spanish Influenza,” diseases that killed millions of people (par for the course in terms of black metal lyrical fodder.) There are some narrated passages in the quieter moments, similar to what you would expect on a Bal-Sagoth release, and which help to heighten the dramatic tone. When the full band kicks in, the vocals take on a deep, bellowing tone, not quite growled, but not exactly clean singing either, though there are some (almost) tuneful pitch changes on the opening track, “Panoukla DXLII.” The music doesn’t go into the typical blazingly-fast tempo usually heard on black metal releases, choosing mainly to stick to a plodding, doomy tone that borders on industrial metal, thanks to the synths, heavy use of sound clips, and guitar overdubs. The mixing and mastering is excellent, creating a nice thick atmosphere, and heightening the drama created by the lyrics.
Though there are a couple of fast moments in “Crom Conaill,” complete with higher-pitched shrieking, Trilogy: Burn Out the Remains is a black metal album more in concept than it is in tone. Because of this, if you’re looking for tremolo picking, blastbeats, and, of course, Satan, this release will probably leave you a little empty-handed. Also, this is a record that requires some attention, since even though it only contains three tracks, the shortest one clocks in at 11 and a half minutes.
If you’re looking for some moody and atmospheric heavy music, KZOHH are a great band to check out.
Vorgrum – Last Domain
Location: Buenos AIres, Argentina
Label: Via Nocturna
Folk metal has been an extremely polarizing form of extreme metal since it first began popping up in the 90s. Lyrics are an absolute orgy of all things pagan, celebrating mythology, ancient heathen battles, and alcohol, while the music ranges from melodic death metal and power metal, all the way to black metal, with elements of traditional folk music mixed in. The bands often even look like they’re ready to hit the local Renaissance Festival, and drink mead by the gallon. Now, when I think of folk metal I tend to expect bands from the Scandinavian countries, so imagine my surprise when I heard that Vorgrum are actually from Argentina!
The first thing that absolutely must be said about Last Domain is that it is a total blast to listen to. If you’re a fan of Korpiklaani, Finntroll, or Eluveitie, this album will capture your attention immediately. Everything you’d expect to hear on a folk metal record can be heard here, from shrieking black-metal vocals over speedy riffs, to guttural growls over Korpiklaani-influenced polka metal. There are often multiple styles mixed into each song, with accordions, synthesizers, and even multiple vocal styles mixed in, including some clean singing reminiscent of Týr. Even the more fun sounding tracks, like “Drunkard Anthem” and “Potato Troll” have a serious metal edge to them, never quite losing the heaviness that you’d expect to hear on an extreme metal release. The level of musicianship is impressive, with each member of the band playing their instrument masterfully, and the transition between musical styles is flawless.
Last Domain is not a straight-forward metal record, and switches gears from pummeling ferocity, to the kind of tunes you want to drink heavily and sing along to. For fans of the genre, this record encompasses everything that’s great about it. It’s just a matter of time before Vorgrum become a household name in the folk metal world.