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The Greek black metal scene has always been fascinating for those who search for spectacular pagan black metal music, especially if the the lyrical themes are about the ancient Greek mythology. Kawir is one of those bands that helped to create a solid base for the Greek black metal scene. They have produced a lot of pagan extreme music in the local realm since the early '90s and the band is still presenting excellent music to this moment.
Isotheos is the fifth full-length album for this group and its following the same pattern of the previous albums, but this time the album has a lot of original ideas and the riffs are more dynamic than the previous releases. Though the tune of the guitars reminds me of the '90s black metal era (which I really like), I can't hide my hate toward the tune of the lead guitar, which sounds rough and heavy most of the time. The drumming gives the structure of the tracks a solid base with the slow beats and fast beats alternating with each other to give the total atmosphere more powerful moments.
The mid-paced raging guitar riffs are really enjoyable for all the fans of black metal music, and the wind instruments that sink inside the sound of the guitars makes the whole atmosphere totally pagan and full of ancient environment. The repetitive riffing that has been covered by the wrath of the crispy vocals makes every track on this album interesting. The flute intro of the fourth track is my favorite moment of this album, especially if you're listening to this album in the woods. The use of the clean (chanting) vocals and black metal vocals are really successful and add a lot of professionalism to the total atmosphere.
The band has written the material of this album carefully to make every single moment an amazing experience for those who adore the mythological musical theme. This album is a great example of how a pagan/black metal release should sound like and I recommend this album for all the black metal fans around the world, especially those who are interested in ancient Greek mythology. Get your copy now and live a distinguished experience.
Originally written for Jorzine:
Greece – This Mediterranean hotbed for holidaymakers isn’t the first place that springs to mind when one mentions black metal. Despite a handful of cult-classic releases from the likes of Rotting Christ, Varathron and Necromantia back in the early 90’s, the country never really earned the reputation of other notable countries such as Norway (as an obvious example). And as such I feel the scene over there has perhaps been somewhat overlooked in recent times, which is a shame as there are some very good bands if you take the time to find them. Nocternity and perhaps controversially Der Stürmer are amongst my favourites, but the real cream of the Hellenic black metal crop as far as I’m concerned is Kawir.
Kawir formed way back in 1993, and after a demo, split with Sigh and a couple of EP’s they released their first album in 1997 which was for the most part an extension of the previous EP. Fast forward to 2012, with a handful of split EP’s and Albums in the meantime, the band have released their fifth studio album entitled Isotheos. Thematically the band could be seen as Hellenic alternative to the current crop of Nordic pagan/Asatru themed metal that’s going round. And with such a rich history and mythology that’s far more known about than its Nordic counterpart, it’s a surprise that this Hellenic mythology hasn’t been tapped into more.
I imagine having made reference to both pagan themes and black metal that a few might be wondering how far does the band lean towards folk metal, and how accurate is the black metal description? Is it just a buzz word to make them seem somehow more mature as a folk metal band despite not having much by the way of black metal in their sound? Well you can rest assure if you’re a fan of black metal. The band is firmly rooted in black metal, and is first and foremost a black metal band. The folk influence is really rather subtle and tastefully done. It comes across more in the atmosphere and the folky nature of some of the riffs, as well as occasional clean vocals and a flute like instrument that appears periodically.
The band has a really good feel for writing songs, and letting the song develop over time. They aren’t in any rush to blast through the album as fast as they can. Only 1 of the 8 tracks on offer here is under six minutes (an instrumental) with two of them exceeding nine minutes. But when you consider the album is a tribute to gods and beliefs of old, you can’t pay homage to something you care passionately and do it half heartedly, you have to put your all in and craft something fit to honour that which you are honouring. Take Hymn to Apollo for example, you can’t convey the awe that such a deity evokes in a 3 minute blast fest, you need to build something, and really evoke a feeling, something I feel Kawir do wonderfully well.
Kawir know when to slow things down, when some good old fashioned pagan fury is required, when to have the riff as the focal point, when to tone it back in favour of a vocal, when blast beats are appropriate and what sort of riff best evokes the feeling of the melody they are presenting. And I feel this is where the band excels. They seem to me to be very aware of what sounds good, and what works, and seemingly aren’t afraid to put in the time and effort in achieving their vision. Whilst nothing is revolutionary or ground breaking or the most perfect example of the genre, there is an honesty in their music, a feeling of these elements being greater than the sum of their parts. And I feel it’s this combined with their unusual folky feel that really set’s them apart and makes their music worth hearing.
I think if you are approaching this from a fan of black metal it’s sufficiently different and stands out from the crowd enough to warrant your attention. I think if you’re a fan of folk metal but worry you might be put of by some of the more black metal elements I would say don’t worry, this is very approachable and would make a nice gateway album for someone looking to get into more black metal from a folk metal perspective. And if you’re a fan of both, well then you’re laughing aren’t you, what are you waiting for? Get on this now, it is mandatory listening for you.
Originally written for Destructive Music
Where many metal bands initially pursue a traditional and derivative aesthetic in their writing, and later abandon it through progression due to outside influence, Greece's Kawir might be considered an opposite. This was initially a flawed but curious band whose use of instrumentation did wonders to enact idealized visions of their homeland's ancient folklore and history. This was the stuff of glades and ruins, gods lamenting their mortal lovers, mortals lamenting their mortality. Pure myth-stuff, and it was indeed a compelling prospect. After all, the world round, we are inundated with Greek myths and legends as a part of our education (or at least we were), so it's great to hear a band finally delve into that, especially one on native soil with a more immediate and interesting perspective on the rituals and lore involved. Sure, many other bands like Virgin Steele have explored the territory in depth, but perhaps not enough among the Hellenic extreme metal scene.
Kawir continue to journey through this collective cultural atavism in terms of their lyrical inspiration and themes, even with the title, Isotheos which translates to 'godlike'. Sadly, though, the music itself has continued to transform into a more standardized form of European black metal that has few differences from the wealth of Scandinavian, German and Italian bands clinging to the compositional qualities of the masters in the 90s. To be blunt: this should not really be happening, not for a band with 20 years behind it which has had ample time to develop its roots into distinct and unforgettable schema. Alas, ΙΣΟΘΕΟΣ becomes a victim of this affliction. Despite a few moments of genuine melodic bliss which recount the charms of their earlier work, this 5th full-length is too often reliant on the basis, exhausted blueprints of the genre without advancing or exacerbating them. The faster-paced tremolo guitar progressions (chords and single note picking) are more or less what you'd hear from a thousand other bands, the harsher vocals are not highly unique unto themselves, and the drums, while competent, aren't noteworthy. It's for this reason that the album's more atmospheric passages, like the chants in "Hymn to Winds" which accompany the more glorious, Triarchy of the Lost Lovers-era Rotting Christ-like rhythm guitar, stand out instantly.
Negatives aside, though, I must give Kawir some credit on the production here. This was a band with some pretty primitive sounding recordings in their past (not necessarily to their benefit), and from the sound of ΙΣΟΘΕΟΣ, you wouldn't know it. All instruments are represented in crystal clarity, from the nice crunch on the central rhythm guitars to the slightly fuzzed backing melodies. The deeper male backing choirs truly resonate through pieces like "Hades", and Greek bands (this one and Rotting Christ, at least) excel at incorporating this into the music more than perhaps anyone else in the genre. The rhythm section is fluid, though they rarely stand out. Wind instruments still maintain a solid presence here, especially in the short instrumental "Panspermia" where they flutter through the sylvan emptiness like naiads splashing through lakes; or the grandiose, 10 minute "Hymn to Apollo", which was hands down the most impressive track for me on this record, really digging out the Kawir that I wanted to hear. I only wish that these moments were more the 'rule' than the exception.
There is also quite a lot of variety throughout this, the band carefully measuring off the faster black metal surges against acoustics, or slower chord progressions. My issue just stems from the fact that about 50% of the riffs here are too familiar and uninteresting to justify themselves among Kawir's better use of atmospheric segues. If the riffs were more memorable during the stock black metal moments, then I'd be a lot more forgiving, but I just couldn't get into much of this. I wouldn't call it boring, though, nor a 'bad' album by any means. It's on par with the last full-length (2008's Ophiolatreia), and probably worth checking out if you've an interest in Greek bands who are actually invested in their cultural roots rather than the typical Satanism you'd expect in the field. A decent effort, and smooth enough on the ears, but I'm still waiting for this group to really arm itself with the past and deliver a truly evocative Elysium that I cannot experience elsewhere.
Greek mythology is – with the Bible – one of the main Western culture pillars. Countless works are inspired by Hesiod’s beautiful cosmology narratives or Homer’s incredible epics. However, black metal has always kept itself away from this source, yet so rich. Nordic legends and evilness celebration are indeed cloaking Heracles exploits in most black metal lyrical booklets.
But then, there is Kawir. Of Greek origin, created at the turn of the 1990s and led since by Therthonax, this band has chosen to showcase its immense national heritage. With excellent results, even if notoriety never really followed. Band strikes again this year with ΙΣΟΘΕΟΣ (« Isoteos » in Latin characters, meaning « equal to God ») with its new Pan-European line-up, with two more experienced musicians, namely Serbian Phaesphoros (guitar and vocals) and Swiss Ormenos (Drums, who is also Switzerland-based Borgne band leader).
Kawir is celebrating Greek Gods through a strong pagan-inspired black metal, their fifth record acting as new evidence. Melodic structure favors epic sequences (mostly mid-tempo pace, choral singing) and grandiose passages (sound projections, use of wind instruments), but without any excess, compared to hundreds of other band plaguing the same sub-genre. Stylistic effects and changes of pace are here well distributed throughout tracks. Song writing also relies on very good and catchy riffs that give each song a specific identity, even without a more elaborate orchestration support.
Like many other pagan black metal acts, Kawir members exploit traditional sounds, especially flute and qanun, a Levant typical instrument I had never heard of. Result is impressive and adds a kind of authenticity impossible to find with keyboards-only bands. Therefore, song Hymn to Apollo gives us the impression of being caught up in a temple! Arts God, himself a wonderful harp player, is celebrated here with dignity! I think it’s ultimately important to note that all texts are written and performed in ancient Greek, a probably unique situation in black metal realm.
I admit I was pleasantly surprised by this album’s quality, beautifully produced and performed by a band that I never knew existed. Even though I’m usually not fond of the paganism-inspired register, a sub-genre completely saturated and emptied of its originality; ΙΣΟΘΕΟΣ hits the mark and forces my admiration. 8/10
Originally written for Métal Obscur.