Sivyj Yar – From The Dead Village’s Darkness
Location: Vyritsa, Russia
Label: Avantgarde Music
Even with the continually growing range of sounds in black metal, it still never ceases to amaze me when a band completely obliterates any pre-conceived notions I have about what black metal should sound like. For instance, Lantlôs, Alcest, Agalloch, and Altar Of Plagues all managed to incorporate elements of post-rock into a black metal setting, while all managing to sound pretty different from each other. At first, my idea of what black metal sounds like was more along the lines of Dark Medieval Times by Satyricon (which was the first black metal record I ever bough); although the album had some pretty majestic moments, I wouldn’t exactly have called the music “beautiful.” And yet, nowadays there are bands emerging from the black metal scene from every part of the globe whose music I would describe as exactly that, “stunningly beautiful.”
Russian one man black metal “band” Sivyj Yar is an example of this. When I see that a band consists of one member, my first thought is “oh, another depressive Burzum-esque bedroom black metal project.” I expect a lo-fi production, a fairly minimalist approach to song-structure, and multiple references to suicide or misanthropy; From The Dead Village’s Darkness doesn’t really touch on any of that, however. The sophistication in song-structure and recording quality on this record is truly mind-boggling, and I’m left wondering how this can all be done by just one guy. Sole member, Vladimir, shows some truly impressive skill on every instrument, and crafts some of the most complex songs I’ve heard in black metal; “Now Only Abyss Hears Us”, for example, changes direction several times, with elements of post-rock/post-hardcore, pagan folk, and even prog all showing up. When Vladimir plays a little more straight-forward heavy sounding riffs I’m reminded of Bastard Sapling w, especially with the unusual key changes. There’s certainly a progressive rock feel, but Sivyj Yar at its core is a pagan black metal band, and with the acoustic breaks on “From The Dead Village’s Darkness,” Agalloch is another band that comes to mind.
There are many heart-wrenchingly beautiful moments on From The Dead Village’s Darkness, like the track “With the Bird’s Farewell Song,” which really ups the ante on the post-rock influences. The lush soundscapes on the latter two or three songs are some of the most gorgeous I’ve heard in the genre, and give Alcest a real run for their money. The production is immaculate, with overdubs of beautiful lead guitar work, light synthesizers, and ambient washes of sound weaving in and out of the mix; I am truly floored by how professional Sivyj Yar’s mixing is, and the bar is set very high for the rest of the one man projects out there. If you’re inclined to like the new “post-black” movement at all, you need a copy of From The Dead Village’s Darkness in your collection immediately, as this is truly a high-point for the genre.
Decimation – Reign Of Ungodly Creation
Location: Ankara, Turkey
Label: Comatose Music
Metal has never been the same since the release of Effigy Of The Forgotten by Suffocation, back in 1991. They took the technical side of Death’s music it and injected it into a super heavy grindcore influenced form of death metal that was later dubbed “brutal death metal.” Countless bands since then have built on that foundation, and have pushed the genre into exciting new directions, in terms of technical proficiency and sheer brutality.
Reign Of Ungodly Creation is the third full length release by Turkey’s Decimation (a quick search shows that there have been at least 5 bands in the USA alone named Decimation), and it showcases an extremely technical version of brutal death metal. The songs are fast, frantically paced, with multiple changes in time signature, loaded down with a huge dose of chugging low-end riffs and guttural growls that Suffocation fans will certainly enjoy. For the most part, Decimation prefer to pummel the listener to death with fast, technical songs in the vein of Deeds Of Flesh and Decrepit Birth, but songs like “Ghoulish Requiem for a Macabre Daemonarch” show that the band knows how to keep things heavy as well. There are a few slower moments, like the mid-paced death march on “Psalm Carnage in the Ghoulish Chapel of Gehenna,” which almost goes into progressive territory with its odd time signatures.
Lyrically, Decimation focus on Sumerian mythology, and has some pretty long song-titles, like “Aberrant Ablution by Filthy Excrements of a Grotesque Crassamentum,” which is quite reminiscent of Nile. If you’re into Nile’s lyrics and highly conceptual approach, there’s some pretty interesting stuff here that fans might enjoy, though the two bands are pretty different in terms of sound.
Reign Of Ungodly Creation is a pretty heavy slab of brutal/technical death metal, but there are a couple of bones I have to pick with the production. First off (and this is pretty prevalent in this type of death metal) at times the drums are just entirely too triggered and thin-sounding, especially when the drummer goes into a straight blast-beat section. Also, there IS a bass player in the band, but you have to really pay attention to find him, since the bass is buried under layers of guitar, vocals, and loud snare drums. it is only when Decimation slow down a little bit, like on the particularly brutal final track “Veracity In Relics,” that it’s possible to pick out the separate instruments. Still, Reign Of Ungodly Creation is pretty much par for the course in this genre as far as production, and fans will find that Decimation will fit in nice and neat with the rest of their brutal/technical death collection.
Ascendancy – The Amazing Ascendancy Vs. Count Illuminatus
Location: Czech Republic
Label: MetalGate Records
Album titles that are needlessly long aside, have you ever wondered what would have happened if Dave Mustaine had made a progressive power metal band instead of Megadeth? I don’t know the answer either, but Ascendancy definitely come pretty close to the possible results.
Coming in with the sonic palette of Stratovarius, the lyrical cheesiness of Dream Evil ala Dragonslayer, and the vocal stylings of the aforementioned Dave Mustaine, Ascendancy wobble along the thin line between theatrical drama and satire. Driven by heavy synth work, bottomed out guitar riffs, speedy high end interludes, and hard, focused percussion, Ascendancy craft a sound simply dripping with sci-fi influences. There are many moments in the album that almost seem to be designed as a soundtrack for a final boss fight in a video game, particularly the moments with backing choral vocals layered in, giving the high drama feel. This is where Ascendancy really hit their stride.
It is always a blast to hear an album where it actually sounds like the band had a fun time making it, which is evident in The Amazing Ascendancy Vs. Count Illuminatus, through the liberal use of the keyboard, the guitar whipping out a solo on a moment’s notice, and lyrical content rich with fantasy creativity. The one place where Ascendancy have a bit of a downfall is in the range of their vocalist who has a clear limit on what he is capable of, sticking mostly to the grindy Mustaine vocals, with the occasional group, electro passages sounding similar to Threshold. Being able to muster up a much wider (read, higher) vocal range would only help to further attain the dramatic, epic feeling they seem to be shooting for.
While the sound may not be perfect or overly new and fresh, the album is still a lot of fun to listen to. Ascendancy bring an endearing level of energy into their sound that makes me wonder if they can do the same live. Overall, super nerdy, but also super cool, making for a great listening experience.