Review Summary: The classic old-fashioned melancholic black metal in action.
Other than hailing from Ukraine, there is not much known about the sole member behind Këkht Aräkh. Covered in mystery, under the artist name of Crying Orc, the band has been active since 2018. Ever since, Këkht Aräkh’s music has been getting better with each release due to the more adventurous songwriting and by building up a truly atmospheric sound-palette. And with Pale Swordsman
, things got really serious.
Grim, eerie, melancholic and romantic: each of these moods can be heard through the riffs and ambient passages of Pale Swordsman
. The unique cover art by itself could set the desired mood which is deeply part of this kind of music. You can see a dark environment with a grim figure holding a sword and a rose in each hand - this can be seen as a symbol of both the album’s, and perhaps, the genre’s encoded sharp contrasts. Black metal can sound about war (think about Black Metal Ist Krieg…
by Nargaroth), and also fragile beauty, and sometimes: both at the same time. The creation of this kind of synergy is quite a challenge, but the artist really did an outstanding job in generating a thick atmosphere.
By all means, it is necessary to talk about the influences from where the Crying Orc drew inspiration. It is not hard to guess that perhaps, the early Burzum albums have had a very powerful impact on this release, especially noticeable in song structures and the riffing style (see the song: “Night Descends” for example.) The black metal songs flow very easily, the riffs feel very gently interlinked, despite the usually moderate tempo. On the other hand, similar style can be observed in the black metal Ulver albums where they inserted a similar melancholic vibe into their sound, like in Bergtatt
for example. Also the early Judas Iscariot albums should be mentioned here, due to the resemblances in style (especially on the vocal front). Furthermore, the album consists of some dark ambient passages where usually the grand piano steps into the spotlight (in tracks like “Intro”, “Nocturne”), conjuring the atmosphere of desolate and ghostly melancholy - which is somewhat similar to early dungeon synth act Lamentation’s work.
The cobwebby tape hiss, several layers of distorted guitars, cawing vocals, simple drumming and of course the interludes: everything in this release screams about a deep love for the old-school ways. Anyone who is really into the overall production of Burzum’s Hvis lyset tar oss
(like I am), will be very pleased about the overall sound and atmosphere (despite the lack of synths involved in this album). Perhaps the album’s closer song is the only track which somehow sticks out from the general early ‘90s black metal worship, where on top of a deeply melancholic piano melody, a poem is presented by gentle clean vocals, and this leaves a somewhat gothic vibe at the album’s end.
“...Sorrow is my only feeling
Through this everlasting season
I’m going without any reason
Winds whispering their secrets
Wandering in the night, I keep them
For you, I rid myself of evil
Gathering the stars for you
I rid myself of evil”
Many tried, and many failed in capturing a memorably great atmosphere so perfectly through the “tools” of black metal. But Këkht Aräkh passed the test, bringing us the sweetest embrace of melancholia in Pale Swordsman
. Fiendishly raw and sharp guitar fuzz, lyrics written like some of Poe’s works, emoitonal depth: this is romantic black metal.