Posts Tagged ‘Pagan Black Metal’

Popiół - Zabobony

The debut from Polish pagan black metallers Popiół is out now through Godz ov War Productions, and looks to add itself to the ranks of slightly off-piste black metal albums that melts folk and pagan rituals into the belching cauldron of black metal and creates something furious

A thoroughly deep, dense and absorbing album from the outset, ‘Zabobony’ hurls itself from your speakers with a Drudkh-like style. Opener ‘Wybiło’ twists and writhes through pagan atmospherics, and there is a definitive feel of eerie forests where dark and eldritch rituals are performed. The cold chanting of ‘Gdy słońce zgaśnie’ lends a touch of ancient darkness to the cascading tremolo riffing, and the smatterings of acoustic guitar are as haunting and blackened as the fiery force of distortion scorched riffing. Popiół infuse every piece with a melodic melancholy, and the richness of the textures woven through the songs belie their short career. Popiół are not afraid of the sweeping, majestic song structures that create these vast vistas of black metal; landscapes and environments that creak with an ancient knowledge and wistful remembrance.

‘Zabobony’ is a record that enchants and bewitches, drawing you in with the promise of bestowing a sight of the beyond. I was hooked within two songs, and an hour later I was ready to hear it all again. Intensely melodic and drowning in atmosphere, this is black metal for an ancient age.

Niðafjöll - Endir

Iceland is a country that I don’t really know any bands from, other than Solstafir and Sigur Ros, and that’s why Niðafjöll are such a pleasant surprise. Thier debut record, ‘Endir’, is a sweeping take on symphonic black metal, and replete with folk elements and blackened tales of Norse mythology.

Each song has a haunting quality, as if they were written facing the northern wind and the frozen fjords. The sweeping black grandeur of ‘Jörmungandr’, that twists and writhes like the World Serpent itself, is an early highlight, as slow sections emerge and keyboard elements begin to play more of a role. The gloomy ‘Vébönd Rofin’ is a personal favourite, but there are many good tracks to choose from.

Niðafjöll don’t skimp on the ferocity though, with some sections of white hot black metal that are not bastardized into symphonics, but the best parts are when the folky, pagan side truly emerges and you get pieces like the evocative piano led ‘Andvari’. It has strong, harsh moments as well, and those riffs are a bit ugly in places, as is the groaning ‘Sól Tér Sortnar’. ‘Endir’ is a great, varied record that has its quiet moments, but equally as many moments of molten, flowing black metal.

I’d recommend ‘Endir’ to anyone who likes atmospheric black metal, and appreciates music that doesn’t always stay pigeonholed. Glistening keyboard melodies sit amongst raw tremolo riffs, and it becomes harder and harder to fathom that this is a one man outfit. Superb.

Zgard - Totem

A Ukrainian one man pagan black metal project? That’s Drudkh isn’t it? Well, no, apparently that model of music seems to be very popular in the frozen forests of eastern Europe, and here we have Zgard, whose fifth album, ‘Totem’ weaves a raging torrent of black metal with Slavic folklore and woodwind to create a tribute to the Veles, ancient Slavic god of sorcerors. Sounds esoteric, doesn’t it?

But that is all nonsense if the music doesn’t match up. After a moody and thoroughly menacing intro raises images of forest rituals and ancient incantations, ‘Land of Legends’ thrusts you headlong into that icy world of centuries past, where thudding blastbeats and thrumming guitar meet flute and scathing vocals. ‘Descendants of the Thunder’ rumbles like its namesake, with a satisfying thickness to its riffing. There’s a pagan influence on here that is subtle, not overbearing. The music stops at points to let chanting through, ethereal sections that enhance the ancient worship on display here.

The title track is the most Drudkh like, especially in its simply brilliant intro. Zgard take a fuller, more rounded sound that Drudkh do, and it benefits them immensely I think, allowing their sound to gain a bit of power and a sense of scale. The melancholy paganism of ‘Sorrow’ and the howling torrent of ‘Forgive Us Nature’ showcases the diversity of Zgard’s music, who can shift seamlessly from emotional acoustics to scathing blackened fury.

‘Totem’ is an excellent album that highlights just why pagan black metal is so good when done right. Zgard unleash every weapon in their arsenal to create music that is affecting on primal and personal levels. I love it, and so should you.


Sivyj Yar take their name from an ancient Slavic deity, and are a Russian band that specialise in windswept pagan black metal majesty. Their newest record, ‘Burial Shrouds’, is out now on Avantgarde Music, and is forty minutes of Drudkh-inspired magic.

After the ominous intro with its tolling bell, first track proper ‘Burial Shrouds’ builds towards this sweeping frozen grandeur. Double kicks power the music along, while epic guitar melodies conjure up snowy wildernesses. Reminiscient of great works by the likes of Windir or Drudkh, ‘The Earth Breathes Sorrow’ ebbs and flows with soaring riffs and shrieking vocals. There is some delightful quiet moments where the true introspective nature of the band is revealed.

When you consider the overriding theme of ‘Burial Shrouds’ is the tragedy and suffering of the Russian peasantry, the melancholic nature of the songs seems more emotive, more affecting. Yeah, this is a piece of black metal that is in parts pretty fierce. But it is also a vast pagan ode to the peoples of Mother Russia and her frozen beauty. The aching ‘Like a Sparkle We Will Vanish into the Darkness’ and the truly huge ‘The Snow WIll Fall a Long While’ capture that mesmerising place between earth and sky, where lives are lived, lost and forgotten.

Sivyj Yar capture the ancient beauty of Russia and the frozen wilds perfectly in their music, and ‘Burial Shrouds’ is an album that fans of all metal should engage with if they can. Boasting a spectacular range and a depth of emotion, ‘Burial Shrouds’ makes you gaze out at the world with a wistful eye.

Yet again I’m combining a couple of days listening because of lack of time. Maybe I should’ve just done one MEGA blog at the end of the month. Well, its too late now, I must persevere! Yesterday and today have been reasonably eclectic, for some strange reason:

Dragonforce – Sonic Firestorm

Grand Funk Railroad – Grand Funk

Cactus – One Way or Another

Anacrusis – Manic Impressions

Kreator – Hordes of Chaos

Blues Pills – Devil Man (EP)

Sodom – Obsessed by Cruelty

Arstidir Lifsins – Jitunheima Dolgferd

Now, I’m technically cheating here because I’m only about halfway through that last one, listening at the moment and its a magnificently crafted slice of pagan black metal. It feels vibrant and passionate, and mostly authentic. Dragonforce’s last record was a big improvement on the 40,000 notes a song bollocks that the one before was. ‘Inhuman Rampage’ continues to be their peak, but ‘Sonic Firestorm’ is a solid, anthemic power metal record where the notes-per-second is beginning to creep up. Anacrusis is a strange record; I like the songs and riffs on ‘Manic Impressions’ but I’m not so sure about it vocally. It’s solid but uninspiring.

Kreator and Sodom are both two of my favourite bands. ‘Obsessed by Cruelty’ is a nasty slice of what would become a prototype of early black metal, whilst retaining all the hallmarks of savage, raw thrash. ‘Hordes of Chaos’ is what thrash needs to sound like in the 21st century. It’s vibrant, catchy as hell and full of headbanging moments. The old guard can always show the young ‘uns how to do it properly. Blues Pills are my new favourite band of the moment, their song ‘Devil Man’ is the most soulful thing I’ve heard in years. Its brilliant.

The final two, Grand Funk Railroad and Cactus are both products of my working with the great folks at The Sleeping Shaman. I’ve started to listen to a lot more psychedelic rock and doom since I started writing for them, and both ‘Grand Funk’ and ‘One Way or Another’ are full of great, hard rock guitar and are blueprints for what would eventually become stoner rock and stoner doom. I particularly enjoyed the Cactus record, and I’m gonna look out some more soon!