Malokarpatan has proven themselves to be one of the most exciting metal bands of the past five years, as their fusion of heavy metal and early black metal with the mystical and folk elements of Eastern European groups from the 80s and 90s came together in ways that felt different and fun to listen to. Since 2017’s Nordkarpatenland vocalist Temnohor left the band, with guitarist HV taking his place. Given HV’s work with Krolok it seemed likely that he’d be able to fill Temnohor’s shoes, and this is demonstrated throughout the group’s latest full length Krupinské ohne. In addition to the change in vocals, this time around Malokarpatan has gone for longer songs that stretch outwards and take on even more of a storytelling and cinematic feel than before. It’s an approach that pays off, with the five songs providing a dark and mysterious journey that has plenty of high points in each one to keep listeners engaged.
Think for a minute how many metal albums in the past few years you’d categorize with the word “fun”. With so many bludgeoning the listener with brute force or drowning them in dark and ominous instrumentation, Malokarpatan feels refreshing in how they can write songs that feel epic in scope yet are downright fun with how they come together. With the average length of each track now coming in at around seven to ten minutes, this gives the instrumentals time to offer plenty of twists and turns and the band always manages to keep things interesting. The overall tone is a darker and mystical one that gives off a sense of magic in the air, but when the abrasive black metal elements give way to high energy heavy metal leads that are as 80s as you can get I guarantee almost every listener will have a smile on their face. This is balanced with subdued melodies where it suddenly feels like you’ve been transported to the woods of Eastern Europe and are headed off into the unknown. Compared to their earlier efforts, the traditional folk influences and mysticism have been woven into the scorching heavy metal and black metal more seamlessly than before, and there are plenty of additional nuances to uncover beneath the initial hooks. The production values have been boosted further as well, moving further away from the lo-fi roots of Stridžie dni in favor of a clearer sound that still has a bite to it.
As previously mentioned, this is HV’s first major recording as lead singer since Temnohor departed and he fits in perfectly. He has a similar raspy scream that at times can almost be indistinguishable from past material, though paying close attention will reveal that his range tends to go just a little higher at times. There’s a similar amount of reverb used that lets each word hover over the air with an ominous and foreboding presence, and it once again gives Malokarpatan a sound that’s hard to replicate. They’ve once again sampled some clips from various Eastern European films, and while this might prove to be impenetrable for Western listeners to a degree it does add to the mystique. The band’s not afraid to have some fun when it comes to the vocals either as the last track “Krupinské ohne poštyrikráte teho roku vzplanuli” finds the entire band breaking into what I can best describe as drunken singing.
With their third album Malokarpatan has gone for lengthier arrangements that provide plenty of twists and turns while still having the killer leads and melodies that get under your skin. It’s a more ambitious approach to songwriting than before and they absolutely nail it, giving listeners plenty to discover with each additional time through. This is the type of metal that you can get swept away in and let it transport you to a completely new and unknown world, and you’ll have fun doing so. Krupinské ohne is available from Invictus Productions.
-Review by Chris Dahlberg
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