Kostnateni
Úpal


4.5
superb

Review

by Brendan Schroer CONTRIBUTOR (260 Reviews)
June 15th, 2023 | 129 replies


Release Date: 05/26/2023 | Tracklist

Review Summary: What musical adventurousness truly sounds like.

In his treatise The Art of War, Sun Tzu (allegedly) wrote the following nugget about the limitations of music:

”There are not more than five musical notes, yet the combinations of these five give rise to more melodies than can ever be heard.”

While there are obviously more than five notes (clearly he didn’t know his scales!), I understand the general conceit of the quote. Regardless of how avant-garde and strange your project is, there are always going to be certain ground rules that limit just how original the output can be. However, contrary to what the average 70s classic rock boomer might think, there are still several ideas and concepts that have yet to be fully explored to this day. Even in the tiniest microgenres and musical niches, there’s still room to innovate and challenge musical norms – though the window to do so is getting smaller each and every day.

The reason I’m bringing this up is that American black metal solo project Kostnateni has achieved exactly what I alluded to above: with D.L.’s second record under this name, Úpal, he has created sounds that I have legitimately have never heard before. Through his efforts in expanding the frontiers of microtones and dissonance – with the help of fretless guitars and wind instruments, of course – D.L. has crafted a 38-minute monument to warped creativity and broken conventions. Úpal pays more attention to odd textures and tonal nuances than outright brutality, something that immediately becomes apparent on the stellar opener “The Belt”; the uncanny, almost psychedelic note-bending gives the song a hazy vibe, almost as if you’re witnessing a mirage in the desert. And despite the frequent shifts in rhythm and tempo, the droning guitars make for a hypnotic listen – as do the chants in the middle of the track.

But delve a bit deeper, and the experience becomes even more strange; however dissonant “The Belt” was, the following song “I Burn Forever” cranks that shit up to 11. The discordant blasts of guitar noise, the absolutely unhinged drumming, the jarring shifts between melody and aggression… this is some off-putting stuff, and makes for a truly compelling piece of music. And despite the fact that there are blastbeats, double bass, and intense riffs, the more “metallic” elements of Úpal never come off as being the central focus of the record. Take “Opal” for instance: there are certainly heavy riffs and guitar distortion, but you’ll likely be too busy focusing on the Turkish chants and flute melodies to even take full notice of those things. Then there’s “Hide From God” whose slow doomy crawl provides a base for all manner of textural experimentation and guitar-driven oddities; odd pinch harmonics and intriguing harmonies abound, resulting in a late-album highlight.

Keep in mind, by the way, that this was all done by one person. While solo black metal projects aren’t exactly a rarity, I’m truly impressed at the attention to detail on this project; despite all the wackiness and off-the-wall energy I’ve outlined thus far, there’s clearly a sense of care and deliberation to be found on Úpal. For every oddball musical choice, there’s a lovely melodic passage to bring a calm to the storm – just listen to the middle section of “Nausea Is All I Am” for a good example of that. For every dissonant guitar stab that incites confusion, there’s a powerful, strident passage that makes sense of everything you just heard – just listen to the melodic-yet-intense riffs at the end of “I Burn Forever”. And what kind of conclusion does Úpal send us off with? None other than a 7+ minute behemoth by the name of “Sun Bound to the Bleeding Earth”, a mammoth track that encompasses all of the best attributes of the album. The oppressive atmosphere, the contrast between melody and savagery, the crazy rhythmic shifts… that’s how you close out a record of this kind.

Still, what exactly do I mean by “of this kind”? I mean, sure, I could compare this to other disso-death/disso-black acts like Ulcerate, Gorguts, Deathspell Omega, etc. But Úpal really occupies its own lane as well, one that the African and Turkish folk influences serve to enhance wonderfully. The true beauty of this record is that it experiments with some of the most left-field sounds that have ever been brought to the black metal sphere, while never going… too far. The album still manages to be incredibly concise and even somewhat accessible, while taking the listener for a diverse, eclectic ride they’ll never forget. This is what musical adventurousness truly sounds like.



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user ratings (116)
3.8
excellent


Comments:Add a Comment 
Koris
Contributing Reviewer
June 15th 2023


20802 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Ah crap, I wasn't expecting the return of the dreaded question marks! I'll see if I (or the mods) can help clear that up

Koris
Contributing Reviewer
June 15th 2023


20802 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Ok, fuck it, I'm using the English titles. lol

Dewinged
Staff Reviewer
June 15th 2023


31824 Comments


Nice review Brendan, album is the equivalent of a sun stroke trek through the desert while following the trail of a bedouine queen riding a flying unicamel (that's a camel and unicorn hybrid, mind you).

Good shit.

Koris
Contributing Reviewer
June 15th 2023


20802 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Thanks, I appreciate it. And that description fits the album perfectly, lol

Deez
June 15th 2023


10280 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Solid review Nate, albums the tits

Demon of the Fall
June 15th 2023


32771 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I've been listening to this over the last couple of weeks. It's certainly a really refreshing bent on ye old disso death / black / whatever formula. I love the 'eastern folk influences' (I lack the knowledge to know exactly what they are, but I read 'Turkish' somewhere) and the sum of Upal's parts makes far more sense than the individual elements do in any theoretical sense. Really impressive execution. I'm thinking maybe even AOTY-worthy.

Thankful for the review. I might even read it!

Donchivo
June 15th 2023


1919 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This is high on moy list for stuff to check out... their EP last year was a breath of fresh (foul cavernous) air.

MoM
June 15th 2023


5994 Comments


Enjoyed this on first listen, but definitely wanna give it a few more, cause i know I’m missing probably half the album’s details in being overwhelmed by its entirety

Demon of the Fall
June 15th 2023


32771 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I definitely see the psych like note-bending vibes you mentioned. Nice. I recommended this in the Thantifaxath thread for that reason. Good read.

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
June 15th 2023


59447 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

What the hell this shit is cracked and actually really fun?



Nice rev, final para is the money

Demon of the Fall
June 15th 2023


32771 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

aye, album dweedly dissoskronky doos ahrd yet simultaneously conjures an unlikely source of fun, even for a boring old bastard such as myself

Azazzel
June 15th 2023


937 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Happy to see this reviewed. Hope people can see past a novelty of influences and technique for how well he actually integrates them with bm into a cohesive musical concept - side A corporeal heatstroke, side B more psychic fracture. Length is great, so compact there is always something to hold your ear without getting lost in the weeds.

I love this psychedelic flavor of sunsoaked dissonance but don't get too comfortable, this material is nearly 2 years old and he's already taken an intentional left turn away from this album on what's already been recorded and is already working on something new after that.

The middle eastern influence are the fretless microtones, playing with tonal intervals,the extended Turkish melodicism where phrases leap past hurdles you think should naturally close them before crashing and he has a penchant for the auto-tune glissando in pop music over there which shows up on vocals for track Opál. You can hear a lot more of that stuff on his EP https://kostnateni.bandcamp.com/album/ohe-ho-tam-kde-padl

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
June 15th 2023


59447 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

not a direct stylistic comparison at all, but this reminds me of what Papangu did for 2021 re. absurd combination of styles that went effortlessly hard and commanded a load of respect without demanding to be taken ultra-seriously

Koris
Contributing Reviewer
June 15th 2023


20802 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Thanks everyone



@Azazzel: Yeah, the fretless microtones are what make the melodies and riffs sound so odd, and I absolutely love it. Especially when the guitars start doing those repetitive droning parts... very hypnotic

Demon of the Fall
June 15th 2023


32771 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

@Azazzel: wow, nice informative input 👍🏻

and yeah Papangu was a treat and I understand the comparison if we remove the stylistic similarity aspect

Koris
Contributing Reviewer
June 15th 2023


20802 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Also, for a bit of clarification: it looks like Kostnateni was originally based in the Czech Republic (which probably explains some of the cultural mish-mashes on the album). But, seeing as all of his recent bios state that he's in the US, I can only guess that he moved to the states sometime before this album came out

Azazzel
June 15th 2023


937 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Interview I read said raised by the internet in rural midwest and gave no clues about family or heritage informing the work so idk.

Demon of the Fall
June 15th 2023


32771 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I was actually gonna mention the Czech thing, then briefly looked again and couldn’t find anything 🤔 no problem though

Demon of the Fall
June 15th 2023


32771 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I was hazarding a guess that the track titles were in Czech, but 🤷🏻 we need someone to confirm… where’s DePlazz(?!) when you need him? Apologies if you’re / he’s not actually Czech, may be misremembering here

Koris
Contributing Reviewer
June 15th 2023


20802 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Just czeched a few of the track names through Translate and... yep, they're in Czech



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