Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Hate Forest - Battlefields

1. У Неділю...
2. With Fire and Iron
3. Проведу Я Русалочку...
4. Our Fading Horizons
5. Колискова
6. Glare Over Slavonic Lands
7. Keening.

Ukraine's Hate Forest unleashed an absolute monster with their third full length release, Battlefields. Heartbreakingly beautiful Ukrainian folk music interludes give shart contrast to the disparagingly bleak downtempo black metal fired in a martial forge. Hate Forest is primarily the creative vehicle of one Roman Saenko, who handles most of the instrumentation heard here. Saenko's name may be familiar to listeners of Drudkh, Saenko's current project, carrying on after the now-defunct Hate Forest with former HF guitarist Thurios. While Battlefields isn't the eastern European Slav blackened folkmetal of Drudkh, it foreshadows Hate Forest's continuing progression with the involvement of folk musics.

Each of the interludes between the dark maelstroms features unaccompanied vocal pieces of Ukranian folk singing, titled in Cyrillic. The lone exception to this is "Keening", again an a capella work of women singing, this time with women crying in the background, most likely in mourning of those who fell in battle. Difficult to listen to. Each English titled track is dark, depressive black metal from the deepest of wooded Ukraine. Hate Forest's particular brand of black metal developed over the years since it's formation in 1995, and Battlefields is the apex of their creative output. Rather than relying on sheer speed to get across a message of terror and despair, HF's black metal has attained an impact not found in the earlier work with the slowing of tempos. The vocals are still a little on the death metal side, gutteral and deep. This is also one of the few BM bands that get a pass with keyboards. The keyboard parts never stick out like a sore thumb, integrating seamlessly with the rest of the blackened sum. Hate Forest is one of many eastern European bands to mix black metal with folk musics, but they stand head and shoulders above the rest, as they are peerless and Battlefields stands as a mastery of the genre.



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Thursday, November 8, 2007

Hypothermia - Gratoner

1. Gratoner I & II (20:59)
2. Gratoner III (14:57)
3. Gratoner IV (11:31)

It's been quite a chore lately, keeping up with the deluge of black metal bands forsaking their genre of choice and branching out into other forms and textures. Some have been embracing shoegaze, others folk, noise and avant garde composition. What tends to get lost in the translation is the core primacy that gives black metal it's power.

The Swedes of Hypothermia have been churning out demos and splits in spades since 2003 and Gratoner is a collection of leaked demos and rehearsals of the upcoming fourth full-length. Not only have they been creating excellent depressive black metal in a live band setting, they've managed to evolve the melancholy sound into something different, pushing the pieces into sprawling epics drawing heavily upon repitition of droning riffs. The tortured wails are still intact, but those looking for a tremelo-picked thrash-a-thon should look elsewhere. Hypothermia are masters of downtempo blackmetalgaze, not sounding too far from a Malefic-fronted Pelican.

It appears this material will not be officially released, at least not in this form, so grab it while you can. It's fair to say that these tracks are a considerable shift in style from the last release, Rakbladsvalsen. These demos have me anxious for the "real", official Gratoner. Hurry yourselves up, gentlemen.



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