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Review: Kroda - Towards the Firmaments Verge of Life...
Kroda
kroda.com.ua
Towards the Firmaments Verge of Life...

Label: Hammermark Art
Year released: 2005
Duration: 54:33
Tracks: 9
Genre: Folk Metal

Rating: 4/5

Review online: January 7, 2009
Reviewed by: Brett Buckle
Readers Rating
for:
Towards the Firmaments Verge of Life...

Rated 4/5 (80%) (4 Votes)
Review


Of late I have found myself listening to a great deal of Folk Metal and metal with folk elements — Belenos, Myrkgrav, Ásmegin, and so on. A great deal of quality Folk Metal comes to us from the Baltic and Slavic lands — Latvia's Skyforger, Russia's Temnozor, and Ukraine's Nokturnal Mortum — which brings me to the band in focus for this review, Kroda, also of Ukraine. I stumbled upon Kroda semi-accidently while browsing a CD store looking for some discs to pad out an order. Seeing the cover of this CD piqued my curiosity, and after grabbing a couple of mp3s from their site I was hooked.

Kroda play a very intense folk-heavy style of Black Metal that thunders through your speakers under the weight of furious blasting and crunching guitar riffs. Contrary to a lot of the Scandinavian folk-influenced metal which seems to focus more towards sorrowful melodies, Kroda's folk elements are often joyous and soaring, reveling in a love of their native land and a deep appreciation for nature. This aspect comes through particularly strongly with many of the folky sections being carried by a sweet traditional flute (a sopilka) trilling over an acoustic guitar, accompanied by samples of lake waves washing ashore, gentle breezes and chirping insects.

Towards the firmaments Verge of Life... begins with a calming ambient intro before bursting into the second track, "Pathways of Fate", which is heralded by an urgent blast on a Trembita, a long Ukrainian woodwind instrument, which really drives the tune forward as if to war. The guitars are brought in quickly, their razor sharp distortion warm and earthy in tone and accompanied by some frenzied drumming from Viterzgir, who also writes all the music. It segues into a wonderful folky middle section, carried by a beautiful Sopilka melody over a rolling bass line and drum pattern, before fading out with more wonderful sopilka melodies. And this sets the tone for the whole album — heavy guitar riffs and furious drumming providing a foundation for some wonderfully uplifting folk melodies. The intro to "Wind From the Mountains" is a great example, with some "HEY! HEY!" style chants thrown in for good measure, but unlike some other bands, at no stage does this sound cheesy, it is always very organic and suited to the song. Another addition to Kroda's repertoire of traditional instruments is the Drymba or "Jaw Harp" which happily twangs away through several sections, both as a lead and accompanying instrument, notably in "How Steel Was Singing Through the Flames of Fire..." It works surprisingly well, and although the sound has the potential to be annoying, Kroda know when to use it and it only ever compliments the songs it is included in.

Vocalist Eisenslav has a harsh style that verges upon spoken word style on occasion, sounding similar to a large, rough warrior threatening his enemies, and while it works well for the most part, it can get a bit monotonous towards the end of the disc. The lyrics are uniformly in Ukrainian, but the booklet provides translations (which occasionally verge on Engrish, but are great to have nevertheless), revealing a strong theme of national pride and fierce warriors, of a love for nature and a yearning to return to the old days, and while Kroda are associated with the Pagan Front, their lyrics have no hint of any NS themes.

The CD booklet is a thing of beauty — wonderful design with gold leaf type and fantastic photographs of the Ukrainian countryside taken by Viterzgir. The package as a whole has a strong earthy feel with wood patterns and leafy designs framing the photos of the Carpathians and a small village. It is clear the band has put a great deal of thought and effort into the package and it really enhances the listening experience to have such a wonderful booklet on hand as you lose yourself in the music.

Folk Metal fans are in for a real treat here as the traditional instruments and melodies are so prevalent throughout each song, and are superbly executed. If you don't like folk with your metal then you should probably stay away here, because even though there is plenty of riotous Black Metal, the folk elements are so deeply ingrained they cannot be escaped, and they are so "in your face" and jaunty that they simply can't be ignored.


Track Listing:
  1. Trizna
  2. Pathways of Fate
  3. Wind From the Mountains (Spring Is Coming)
  4. From Behind the Horizon
  5. A Memory In Blood
  6. How Steel Was Singing Through the Flames of Fire...
  7. Wolfish Rage (Ulfhednar)
  8. In the Smoke Breathe...
  9. Wrath (Honor cover)
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