Listen to Srogość
If there is one country outside of Scandinavia that knows how to get the black metal vibe right, it’s Poland. Not even Germany can match the ability to get that necessary chilly, icy element that encapsulates the genre. Hailing from the land of blackened death metal pioneers Vader and Behemoth, what does Srogość have to offer?
The answer is quite a bit, actually. Considering this is their first full-length release, on a small label no less, I am impressed with the production. The sound has the aforementioned “coldness” to it, while also being clear and defined. Each instrument comes through the mix perfectly. The symphonic elements (and there are quite a few) benefit the most from this. The beautiful synth arrangements are strong and evoke imagery of snowy, grey landscapes without the vocalist having to say a word.
Speaking of which, the vocals are very strong. Lyrics are in Polish, which is a strength in my mind. I have mentioned in other reviews how important I feel it is for vocalists to write in their mother tongue rather than clumsily translate or limit themselves in English. There is a dark conviction behind the growls. I tend to compare vocalists quite a bit, but I can’t think of an equivalent here. There is a disturbing deepness and guttural nature to them, yet somehow each word is easy to understand (insofar as making out the words…I don’t speak Polish). From what I could translate, the imagery is well-written. At times the evilness is amplified further with a layering of two vocal tracks that are only slightly different. Think to horror films like Evil Dead and the Exorcist when the possessed characters are speaking. Good stuff. I approve.
Being a guitar guy, this is probably the most important aspect of an album for me. I am pleased to say that the riffs here stand up well and do not feel imitative, boring, or trying too hard. They strike a nice balance. Taking the track “Fantasmagorie” as an example, it opens with a power-chord start-stop palm-muted riff then adds a catchy lead intro over that. Both are fairly simple, but played in such a way that it works well and sticks with you. There is a quick break followed by a tremolo bridge that blends well with the various other elements. More plodding power chords before a chugging palm mute riff (a la Vader) followed by an oscillating tremolo for a heroic-sounding outro. Other songs also feature the ominous minor chord variations utilized by other BM greats such as Immortal and Gorgoroth. The simple, repetitive, hookiness of it all harkens back to albums like A Blaze in the Northern Sky. My favorite guitar part is probably the utterly sad-sounding lead that opens the title track.
The drums stick to a fairly mid-paced approach with ample use of the double-bass pedal. This is not your prototypical blastbeat album. I agree with Fenriz that it is been done to death and then some, so this is a good thing. The drum sound is very crisp. Each bass and tom hit penetrates the mix and adds to the texture. “Exodus” in particular features some nice patterns and changes. I have little to say about the bass guitar. It pretty much follows the basic guitar melody and adds a thickness to the sound.
All of this is complimented by the synthesizers. Expect a lot of haunting reverb over strings, choir, and other sounds. I would not liken this album to groups like Emperor or Dimmu Borgir, as the symphonic elements feel less in-your-face. There are some moments where they stand on their own as an intro or interlude, but otherwise are featured more to fill out a sound that is already present. The approach is also far less aggressive and chaotic. “Supernova” opens much like an outtake from Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk, but I feel it comes into its own by keeping a slower, more orderly pace. The bombast and theatricality have been traded in favor of a grimmer, bleaker atmosphere.
In closing, W szaleństwie is an excellent, consistent take on simplistic symphonic black metal that warrants listening. At the time of writing, the album was available for full stream at their bandcamp site. I suggest you check it out and support a promising new group.
Note: This is a repost of my review at Metal Archives.