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Bands of Vietah’s mould tend to produce scores of albums in short periods of time that all sound alike due to the fact that they all share the same resounding influence -- Burzum. So, to my surprise, I was pleasantly looking forward to this sophomore effort after I read that the direction had been altered in several different ways, though the extent of which was unknown. Alas, having played the album over and over again to get to grips with it and those changes I mentioned, I can conclude that the style of the band has altered, but not drastically so. Antarctis has opted for a similar sort of stylistic approach by conceding that Burzum-esque guitar riffs and ambient touched courtesy of the keyboards are still the way to go. In terms of evolution, Vietah have progressed but, personally, I’d say backwards. More individualistic touches have been added to the album in an attempt to give it definition and depth, but Vietah’s sophomore, entitled ‘Smalisty Zah’ lacks quality in almost all areas of its approach.
The vocals, for instance, were the first thing that I had noticed which have been altered. Antarctis has seemingly changed his vocal approach to add an extra sense of individualism, something which his debut lacked in all areas. Having said that, the debut was as likeable as it was familiar given the enormous influence Varg Vikernes had over this Belarusian act. Antarctis’ vocals have become deeper and though they still conjure up the same sort of emotive feelings, they don’t quite match the music the way in which they used to. Instead of being of a rasped variety, something which perhaps allowed the beauty of the Belarusian accent and language to pass through the dissonant style, the vocals are now performed as a low, deep growl. These are far less appealing and, given the huge influence Burzum still holds over this small, relatively obscure act, the vocals don’t match the type of style that Vietah have chosen to adopt.
As I previously stated, the alterations that have been placed on this sophomore are not drastic. The vocals are somewhat different, though they still play upon the same emotional fields as the previous ones -- pain, anger, loneliness, solitude, dissonance, that sort of thing. The vocals were adept at doing that before, though they lacked the originality to really become memorable. They were also not as impacting as Varg’s vocals. His voice resonated in many millions of disgruntled, angry black metal fans throughout the years, but Antarctis is a far reach away from performing to the same sort of levels as Varg had done in the mid 1990’s. The vocals here, though they express a willingness to try new things and experiment, really don’t shine. However, Vietah are keen to expand on the experimental factor by moving to merge different eras of Burzum’s career together, such as his ambient works with his black metal ones. Songs like ‘Vosienskija Spadarozniki U Nocz’ are a good representation of this as they float suspended in the air through keyboard driven ambiance and a solitary plucked string instrument. ‘Paslja Paunocznaja Ciszynja, another instrumental song, is just as disappointing.
The occasion vocal does pop up, but these whispered words bare little importance to someone like me since I don’t speak the same language. In fact, the entire song is rather dull, just like Varg’s ambient works. The best part of Vietah’s approach was never in the fully instrumental works. These plays upon Burzum’s ambient pieces are unnecessary as they don’t flow well with the rest of the album. If it had come at the beginning, or possibly the end then maybe my view would be different, but to place a tedious, overly long ambient track in the middle of a black metal record really throws off the cohesion of the material, which was flowing well enough, despite the mediocrity of a number of the repetitive riffs -- a theme which is repeated once the regular songs pick up again in the uneventful ‘Zdzjajsniennie’, a song which really hammers home a slow paced Burzum feel until it picks up and shows a bit on invention by introducing the drums which may, or may not be produced by a drum machine, which once again sounds hollow, especially on the odd cover of Darkthrone’s ‘Quintessence’.
One positive I did find at the beginning of the record was the bass. Unlike the first album, this sophomore recognised the benefits of allowing the bass to become an audible asset. Up until the ambient song, the bass is often in the foreground and though it doesn’t tend to vary too much, mostly played to a tremolo style, it was a nice, competent addition to the more bombastic styled sound, one which perhaps highlights a finer production style, too. The bass, during the second half of the album, does fade however. It becomes a lesser aspect and gives way to the repetitious, monotonous guitars and lacklustre percussion until the unusual cover of Darkthrone’s ‘Quintessence’, a somewhat uninspired addition to the albums uneven feel. Perhaps the vocals were changed with this song in mind? Since Varg’s vocals, which were a clear inspiration on the debut, are nothing like that of Darkthrone, perhaps Antarctis felt the need to alter the entire performance just for this song so he wouldn’t come unstuck? Ironic that his vocals are actually less appealing in this form then. Generally speaking this is an average album with not too much going for it -- a lack of memorable guitar riffs, a one dimensional sound, indifferent structures, mediocre vocals. Best steer clear.