Review Summary: Pagan black metal from Ukraine. An excellent showing from this young band.
It is interesting to me to witness such a diverse black metal revival occurring in many different countries. Specifically the Slovak region has seen a huge emergence of quality black metal bands climb out of the ashes in the past 10 years plus. There have been plenty of amazing bands to come out and release something spectacular to the metal world. Russia has Storming Darkness, Tomnozor, and Druzhina. Poland has Graveland, Behemoth, and Besatt. And Romania has Negura Bunget but to me the most exciting country has been Ukraine. They’re known for producing such respected, as well as some of my favorite, black metal groups in Nokturnal Mortum and Drudkh. Ukraine has found another young group with the intent to rival their predecessors. Kroda is a pagan black metal unit hailing from Ukraine. Just forming in 2003, Kroda have already released two split CD’s and four full length albums. Like the others, Kroda are no strangers to National Socialism although Drudkh claim to take part in another German movement called “The Conservative Revolutionaries“. Nonetheless, I’m glad I can get past the political spectrum of the band and appreciate the music for what it is.
Drudkh, Nokturnal Mortum, and Kroda all share a few things in common. All three like to incorporate Ukranian mythology and traditional folk melodies into an organic black metal base with a premise of hatred directed towards Christian light. This is where the comparisons will end because all three groups possess a unique and distinct sound from each other although sharing the same blood and tradition. “Fimbulvinter” is the duo’s forth and latest full length offering. The band shares similar traits with their Norwegian brethren yet leaning towards more to melodic black metal than the low fi Darkthrone approach. Plenty of tremolo picking, tortured vocals, and fast tempos to be found on the disk. Coming in at 5 tracks at a 55 minute span, each song boasts an average length of 11 minutes. Plenty of time for the band to add dynamic shifts and diverse arrangements between each segments. One thing I love about the album are the instrumental sections that Kroda implement in each track. They sound fresh and exciting, especially when the flute makes an appearance. Not often or over abused, the flute adds a nice feel to the music when present. The guitar melodies are sublime as well, keeping the album varied and interesting enough to keep this from becoming a back of the shelf item.
The band itself is split between two people. Eisenslav is responsible for the vocals, bass, and percussion. Viterzgir plays the guitar and keyboards as well as providing backing vocals. He also brings in a native woodwind instrument called the Sopilka that plays a decent role in the more folkish sections of the album. Eisenslav’s harsh vocals revolve around deep raspy growls and crazed shouting for the most part. His voice reeks of desperation and frenzy as his tone gets progressively louder and more violent. I can’t comment on the lyrical content as it’s all written and performed in the Ukranian language. However, I’ve read that it’s based on a Norwegian concept of a three year long winter. I think the album art does a great job in explaining the plot of the album. The bass is surprisingly present for more than a few sections. I hear quite a few catchy bass lines fall upon my ears from time to time. Also responsible for the drumming, Eisenslav doesn’t really do anything outstanding other than a few cool tribal beats but plays his part pretty well. Crashing cymbals and thundering double bass help keep the speed of the album going. Now, Viterzgir shows why he is the man on his album. His guitar work is typically fast and heavy but he’s not afraid to slow down and throw a little groove or melody for when it counts. There is plenty to be excited about and add in tasteful soloing and you have a solid guitar performance. As for the keyboards, they are sparingly used and help add ambiance to the atmosphere of the music.
When it comes to black metal production isn’t really a factor for me. Whether it’s Wolves In The Throne Room and their clean organic tone or Darkthrone with their grim, low fi approach, production tends to differ among black metal bands. Here the production is pretty low and fitting for the band‘s music. Fimbulvinter is an excellent black metal release filled with great song writing skills and musicianship to appeal to those who like their metal black or folk. 5 solid tracks and a lack of filler sounds like a win to me. This is an album that I strongly urge metal fans to check out. 92/100