|Artwork & design by Yuriy Kononov from Sauroctonos|
Those familiar with the non-typical black metal scene know that Ukraine is (surprisingly) at the forefront of the sub-genre of which I write so much about. Drudkh has been making some of the world’s most hypnotic revelry for over a decade now, and rising symphonic paganists Khors were just signed to Candlelight Records, who will be releasing their fifth full-length in September. So it’s no surprise that the country would spawn the newest hellchild of blackened tinkering, Sauroctonos. Although the band has been around since 2005, this is their first official release. And what a release it is.
When I say non-typical, I mean it’s almost as far from black metal musically as you could imagine. If you’re a fan of screaming guitars, never-ending blast beats, satan worship and low-fi sludgery, then Sauroctonos is not for you. But if you’re a fan of the recent post-rock infusing the genre — and fellow countrymen — has toyed with; with its toned down, relaxed and atmosphere-heavy nature, you’ll want to pay attention to Our Cold Days are Still Here When the Lights are Out (OCDSHWLO? Can’t imagine what that sounds like in their native tongue.)
The first thing you’ll notice about this record is how beautifully crisp it is. It’s clear no shortcuts were taking in the recording or mastering process. Every note, cymbal, pick slide and breath is fully developed in the cleanest way possible. Holy shit, black metal where not only can you clearly hear the bass, but with its infectious grooves it’s much more than a backing instrument for the band. Other surprises come with the way the band incorporates acoustic guitars. While their use is nothing new for the genre, the band plays them sparingly, in a hook-driven, almost poppy fashion that experiments with some light electronica diddling on top. It works perfectly.
Take the progressing sound of Enslaved to its beautiful extreme, with only the slightest hint of distorted guitars but never giving in to the cliche of clean singing, this sounds like a band perfecting a magnum opus, not newly releasing their first album. The shortest track is six-and-a-half minute “Grayscale Flames” which dances nimbly between the band’s peaceful jams and indescribable high-speed thrill rides. The others do so similarly, but so well that that you’re still begging for more after you reach the 10-minute closer, “Farewell.”
Despite the beauty and progressive nature of the band, when the album is over there isn’t too much left to reflect on. No memorable riffs, no unexpected genre-shifts, no large differences really between any of the songs. But it would be unfair of me to dock points from the band for those complaints, because Sauroctonos is not in the riff-crafting business. They’re in the melancholic atmosphere business. And in that business, success is never determined by headbang-able drop-tuned chuggery. It’s determined by the choice of chord progressions and switching — both dutifully and beautifully — between carefully thought-out guitar tones; and in that market they excel. Because it’s not the type of album to reflect on after you’re finished with it, it’s one you have to experience in the moment.
[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]