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Alright, this is a bit peculiar. Another Slavic folk-metal band, that's all. The trick is: this time it's almost like aggro-folk metal. Normally, Pagan bands borrow backing riffs for their folk melodies from a few sources such as heavy metal, black metal, melodeath, sometimes meshing it all together and often watering it all down, giving it a more plain, straightforward direction. I mean, it's folk metal. It's gotta be accessible to your mandatory foot stomping, fist pumping and other customary movements.
Now, DRYGVA went to the riff department store next door and purchased their stencils from modern death metal, groove and post-thrash traders. The emergence of such band is not without a precedent, however. The debut recording of their countrymen KAMAEDZITCA already attempted to marry death metal and East European folk, so DRYGVA can be viewed as attempting to cement that approach a bit or bring it up to date, so to say. It is notable that when I was initially familiarizing myself with the band by sampling clips on "youtube", I've already encountered comments likening DRYGVA to the likes of, for instance, ILLDISPOSED with superimposed folk parts. And now having heard the whole album, I also wouldn't be too surprised if these guys' listening habits included everyone from MESHUGGAH to STRAPPING YOUNG LAD to LAMB OF GOD. Does it sound awkward? Yes and no. It does at first because the more urban nature of this type of riffing does clash with the pastoral essence of all the folk parts. On the other hand, it is, surprisingly or not, not fundamentally worse than your usual folk-metal stuff, with the band doing a decent job of trying to blend in all components.
Opposites attract I guess - sometimes. I also guess that with folk-metal in general, it does not make a whole lot of difference what it is that's playing in the background (the third track even exhibits some nearly sludgy riffing), as long as it has your clear-cut rhythms, some lead work and synth padding to back up or occasionally contribute to the folk harmonies. (Hell, ever heard of Pagan hip-hop! I did.) And in that regard, DRYGVA's concept of folk-metal is very much the same as everyone else's. But then their folk infusions are not as overwhelming as with some other groups. The band is self-aware enough and tread carefully, as not to attempt to throw everything they might have heard on the old folklore records they found in a library into the final mix. There are no female vocals or clean singing - it's all hoarse screams. Keyboards mostly play an ornamental role, and the main carrier of all folkisms comes in the form of a flute or a pipe of some kind, I'd say not unlike SKYFORGER.
As such, this would possibly be digestible for those who normally shun "village metal" but still have an itching to reconnect with their bloody roots. You can mosh to this somewhat, I suppose, while at the same time dreaming up images of some country scenery that inexplicably remain stuck inside your head - leftovers from a long ago and forgotten summer vacation. Not sure whether a lot of people would actually want to do exactly that, of course, but I do not see why this should not be embraced by a number of genre fans. If anything, it's got a bit more balls than many a folk-metal brethren.
One possible problem that I have with this stuff is an abstract one and does not so much have to do with the band per se but with what might come after them. As I was listening to the "Son of the Mighty Rod", I have seen ghost flashes of the future deathcore-folk mutations and, who knows, maybe a subsequent subgenre, which would place not too far off from where DRYGVA dwell at the moment. Am I just being too stupidly paranoid? Yeah, sure - but maybe better that than seeing this ghost come to life. There is enough folk metal cheese out there as it is.
(Originally published in Diabolical Conquest web-zine)