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Svensk death metal of Ukrainian bottling - 73%

UCTYKAH, October 9th, 2011

Industrial, death metal, even folk and deathcore were terms I've heard applied to this more obscure Kharkiv band, also known for involvement of the local black metal prodigy Amorth, who has long since departed for allegedly greener pastures. The rest of the band, however, did not fall into despair. On the contrary, they managed to rebound quickly by recruiting non other than Vladislav "Munruthel" Red'kin for the vacant drummer chair. Pretty good move. It did take this line up quite a few years to complete their sophomore effort, which is apparently hot on the way only now, according to the band's myspace page. So while the eager public is salivating in anticipation, we can quietly gaze back to the less glamorous year of 2005 when "The Banner of Victory" was initially released.

I suppose this is fairly interesting, even a little unorthodox, coming from a Ukrainian band anyway. The crux of the album is, or aspires to be, a throwback towards the old Swedish death metal, which, in turn, is spiced with small condimental doses of folk-esque melodic sensibility (via keyboards) and a bit of techno-industrial influence (on one track) but not a whole lot in terms of deathcore (thankfully). While the band's nationalistic, war-Pagan lyrics and imagery are slightly at odds with predominating death metal influence, musically THUNDERKRAFT did put together a rather cohesive, if predictably not the most diverse and exciting, album by avoiding needless experimentations and keeping their additional musical appendages in check and good placement. The opener "Sun in the Bosom" pretty much lays out the template for the rest of the songs by introducing elegant, distantly folksy synth work periodically making its way around the abundant, unhurriedly plastering riffs that trade places with a couple of vaguely blackened speed bursts. The guitar tone is cloned faithfully, even if production feels just a bit stripped, although the mix is mostly leveled and clear, lacking that extra pound of toned meat to make it all sound really tight and killer. Not that it ever stopped NIHILIST or many others from way back when, of course, but still. Generally, the guitar playing here does seem to be avoiding tremolos somewhat, preferring instead to focus more on the mid-tempo groove construction and slamming the gas pedal only during very few selected passages. Yet, guitarist Alafern appears to have studied the old ENTOMBED/DISMEMBER/GRAVE etc. classics with enough genuine interest in order to replicate even some of the smaller intricacies of the Swedish sound, which can also be heard throughout very sparse but beneficially contributing solo incrustations.

I am not too crazy about Amorth's vocals, for he does not quite sound like a death metal vocalist but someone (say, a black metal type) trying to pull off death metal vocals and ending up sounding more like some kind of "core" fella, hence the deathcore analogies. His dry screams expose some lack of depth in his guts, for this type of music at least. His drum work does keep it well together, though - without any particularly impressive flashes of technicality, but with his cymbals and high-hat sounding too high in the mix. What stands out in this setting is probably Ann's keyboard arrangements. In and of themselves, these passages are quite typical of Eastern European "symphonisms" used for black and folk metal formulas, but in this case their jelling together with death metal guitar riffs adds a good dose of atmosphere, class and sensitivity to the rough, mostly plodding and a little monotonous mainframe. That and the death metal meets electronica bastardization on "Matter of Chaos" point towards the more modern nature of the band's outlook.

This record still falls way too short of a fuller death metal-folk combination ala debut albums from Belarusians DRYGVA or KAMAEDZITCA, but it's probably for the better. With its short running time and the above noted stylistic appendages, "Banner of Victory" does not lose too much steam to the sluggish riffing aesthetic, making it a decent release and being enough of a reason to look forward to the next album.