December 13, 2019

Prava Kollektiv Roundup

By Steven Leslie.

Prava Kollektiv is a “collective” of shadowy bands pumping out a variety of different takes on black metal. As novel as it sounds, the real question is whether it’s worth your time. The Kollektiv’s association with Amor Fati Productions, the late great Fallen Empire, and newly emerging Mystískaos should give you a clue. Read this roundup and you will know for sure.

Released on Bandcamp as two separate EPs, Soulmare I & II are thematically connected and should be consumed as a single piece. Clocking in at 21+ minutes each, these are compositions that demand a lot of the listener and will certainly not appeal to everyone. On their face, most of the elements, especially the pained screeches and unnerving synths, will be familiar to fans of the more depressive and atmospheric sides of the black metal genre. While the tools and even the compositions themselves may be familiar, it’s Mahr’s ability to imbue raw emotion into their music that makes them worthy of your time. The music’s creator sounds as if they’re unravelling and succumbing to the darkness. Soulmare I begins as a much more atmospheric, borderline ambient experience that slowly becomes increasingly unhinged. Soulmare II injects more conventional metallic elements, destructive guitar riffs and blasting drums, into the soundscape established on the first track. Paired with Mahr’s unnamed vocalist’s harrowed shrieks and growls, Soulmare II is the crescendo and submission of the soul to total spiritual collapse. There is genuine pain and suffering deeply entwined within these two EPs, making for one of the most potent and unnerving listening experiences I personally have had this year.

If Mahr is the slow, painful descent, Hwwauoch is a wide-eyed celebration of maddening nihilism. Taking the traditional tenants of depressive black metal and injecting them with a syringe full of meth, Hwwauoch flip the genre on its head and create a euphoric, but no less harrowing listening experience. What really makes them stand out from their contemporaries are the excellent basslines, which are the primary melodic component on which the songs are built. Instead of traditional riffing, the guitar lines are utilized more in conjunction with the synths to fill in the space left by the rhythm section, adding significantly to the aural impact and atmospheric depth of the onslaught. Constantly shifting and often feeling on the verge of full scale collapse, Into the Labyrinth of Consciousness is a harrowing, but strangely empowering listen.

On To Exist | To Breathe Voidsphere offer up two 20+ minute tracks of, you guessed it, void-worshipping atmospheric black metal. Don’t be put off by the track lengths or the atmospheric BM tag, as this is a vastly superior and more engaging effort than the genre usually puts forth. While Mahr relied heavily on emotional resonance to engage the listener, and Hwwauoch reveled in aural onslaught, Voidsphere relies on compositional dynamics to keep the listener on the edge of their seat throughout the album’s 42-minute run time. Coming off as an enigmatic, slightly warmer combination of Paysage D’Hiver’s blackened assault and Midnight Odyssey’s majestic heft, Voidsphere inject some much needed life into what has become an increasingly stale genre. What really helps this standout is the band’s ability to maintain the listeners’ attention with their continually shifting focal points. While always maintaining a lo-fi aesthetic, Voidsphere find a way to dramatically propel the emphasis between the different components of their compositions. The riffs, drums, synths, and even vocals all get their moments to shine as each element ebbs and flows in a seemingly random, but actually masterfully constructed dance. This unique songwriting approach ensures that both tracks never outstay their welcome and offer an element of depth and memorability that not many others in this genre can match. All hail the void.

Pharmakeia, the newest group to emerge from the Prava Kollektiv, is in many ways the most straightforward, traditional black/death band. By that I mean they build their songs around what has become a fairly standard framework of distorted tremolo riffs, blasting drums, and blast furnace vocals. What they lack in creative song structures, they more than make up for in raw intensity. This is some seriously vitriolic shit. After a very short, atmospheric intro, Pharmakeia drops the listener into a dense, suffocating wall of sound that rarely relents, and even when it does, it’s only to make the impact of its return that much more potent. It has the oppressive atmosphere of a more straight up black/death version of a band like Abstracter. While the lo-fi, distorted production does somewhat dull the impact of individual riffs, it allows the excellent drumming to stand out. While opener “Invocation” kicks off with some stock blasting, it only takes about two minutes for the drummer to showcase his or her skill and inject some creativity and groove, which is used to great effect throughout the entirety of Pharmakeia. Special mention should also be given to the searing vocal attack, which pairs the ferocity with a less layered, sharper blackened rasp. Overall, Pharmakeia is a solid and welcome addition to the more atmospheric approaches of the other Prava Kollektiv bands and definitely worth keeping an eye on.

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