Folvangr Records have got some folking excellent album releases this spring. Selvans offer a hybrid mix of guttural blackened metal with light folk touches aiding their aim for atmospheric tales of folklore. Synths are used to recreate sounds of strings and orchestral accompaniment to the buzzing guitar and floating flutes. This album ‘Lupercalia’ was due for release in 2015, but now sees the light of day on a cassette release.
During the 60 minutes of music we travel through eons of time charting the differing peoples who have populated Selvans native Italy. So, a history lesson in itself, delivered by pounding drums, widdling guitars and throat warbling growls. At times it touches the symphonic black metal areas, as it isn’t afraid to incorporate grandiose ideas in to its canon. But the guttural scream is not far away to ground it back into the dark forests of bygone times. Like the soundtrack to Sam Raimi directing Shakespeare’s Macbeth!
Sojourner, from the other side of the world, New Zealand, offer a far tighter technical approach to their black metal with their album ‘Empires of Ash’. To me, it is less organic and more scientific as the drums, super-fast drums at times, berate the listener, the vocals are metred in an orderly fashion and the breaks punctuate the barrage with soft woodwind rest periods. It is very clean, along the lines of recent Saor album ‘Guardians’ in a very controlled environment. Their mix of quiet and loud is well balanced, however a little more variety in the noisy parts would keep my attention longer.
I really don’t know much about Azerbaijan, apart from Eurovision was held in Baku a few years ago, and that was my first armchair visit. So, settling down with Violet Cold on their aural tour of Azerbaijani black metal is a welcome distraction. Violet Cold is a one man experimental outfit, again drawing on local rhythms and orchestration of his locale, the Steppes and Near East, to blend with the sheer power and cold hatred of a traditional black metal howl. And blending is a key word as this is a joint release by Folkvangr and Tridroid Records.
It is a rather relaxing listen, ‘She Spoke of her Devastation’ opens with a slow ambient trail and faint heartbeat before an epoch long guitar kerrang takes us in to the vocal and soaring guitar effects. It’s a dark ambient piece where the vocals conjure up emotions of despair, confusion and longing, while the music is expertly in a black gaze type way, slowly building as if we were walking up a mountain of wallowing sorrow…
This leads us to ‘Selfless’ by Afar, hailing from New Jersey USA. Another solo project, this time by Itay Keren from Windfaerer. A digital only release now sees the light of day in cassette form, and this is yet another beautifully crafted blackened shoe gazing piece but a little more fraught than Violet Cold. It runs at a medium pace, but the vocal is rather haunting in its ragged wits end screaming. Track 4, ‘The Endless Path’ sums up the sentiment of this album, longing, never ending trials and tribulations of uphill struggle
Topics covered here are certainly dark and emotive; loss of friendships, failure of relationships, the deep sorrow of self-doubt and insanity, and loneliness of immigration. This last issue is of interest, as the other albums here draw on their native sounds and influences, yet this one appears to address the feelings of NOT being in one’s native land. An interesting concept to leave this foray in to Folkvangr Records.