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Hailing from the Ukraine, Ygg are a black metal band that does proud the legacy that their country boasts. With members from current heavyweights of the scene Khors and Nokturnal Mortum amongst their ranks, and featuring members of up and coming band Ulvegr (formed from the ashes of the cult favourites Runes of Dianceht) it’s of little surprise that the quality of music on this release is as high as it is.
In some respects I consider the type of music on this album to be quintessential of eastern European black metal sound. Yet in others it could be argued you’ve heard everything that’s good about it before, but I don’t feel they’ve been heard in quite this way. It takes all the element’s and melds them together and in doing so creates something far greater than the sum of its parts. You have the relentless, driving drumming of Hate Forest, the atmosphere of Walknut, Drukdh-esque riffs. You have the melodic tendencies of Khors, along with the grandeur of Nokturnal Morum and yet despite all these elements being evocative of an existing band, they still retain their identity.
I’ve heard comparisons to early Burzum in terms of the vocal display, which I guess isn’t a bad thing as such, though I’d say they were less harsh, and in many respects I feel I prefer those on display here. This might be partially down to the fact I find the most eastern Europien languages quite aesthetically pleasing in the context of harsh vocals. Lyrically I don’t confess to understanding a word of it; however I don’t see it as a problem as such. In a way they provide another texture to the sound as much as they do a narrative.
Now the album isn’t without its faults, though these are really minor things in the grand scheme of things. The into for example whilst nice and atmospheric and being one of the few none folk metal bands to utilise the Jew’s Harp adding an interesting dimension, probably goes on a couple of minutes too long really, and the token gesture ambient outro feels like it goes on a bit. It feels like it’s trying to recreate something similar to Drudkh’s First Snow, but not quite succeeding. Though it has to be said, it’s far from the worst outro I’ve heard. And finally I feel I should mention the magnificent Blazebirth Hall style artwork which is done in a similar style to Темнозорь’s Горизонты... and Forest’s Обрекая Надежду на Вечность. Whilst an artwork is often of no consequence to the music, I find it’s always nice to have a good one.
I think it’s fair to say the rating I’ve given should be taken with a pinch of salt, and looked at it this way. If you really like the bands mentioned there’s a good chance you’ll love it, if you’ve never heard of them there’s a chance you’ll like it, and if you actively dislike those bands than I guess this might not be the album for you. The only reason I didn’t give it a full 100% was the intro and outro of which I have deducted a mere 2% for each. But that aside I still feel this is an incredible album, and certainly one of the best of 2011.
Ygg formed in 2010 with former Nokturnal Mortem members Odalv (bassist) and Vrolok (drummer) paired up with Helg of Khors, and what results is an album that as good as some of the better material of the former two bands. In sound it comes off as black metal with a distinct sound of being from the Ukraine. With that being said, it isn’t particularly groundbreaking, utilizing the odd synth and folksy interludes like bands have been doing for awhile, and with Nokturnal Mortem-influenced melodic, yet, Mayhem like chaos, gives the Ukrainian-type riffs a bit more kick. In the end, it’s pretty entertaining to those who appreciate the more dissonant black metal bands but also have a taste for melody.
The guitar work on this is pretty good. It’s not redefining anything, but with lots of bouts of dissonant, tremolo-picked chords for 11 minutes at a time, the guy certainly has his chops, and what little lead work is there sounds professional and clean. It’s black metal so obviously Helg here is going to be at the forefront and he does a good job leading the band. The bass work is somewhat hard to hear, but it can be found in odd places. Obviously Odalv’s focus is more on the vocals than the bass work because, well, it’s black metal. The drumming is superb and really gives the trebly riffs a good punch without overwhelming anything while blast beats and double bass are prominent, but there’s the odd upbeat rhythms and slower marches that he executes perfectly. The vocals are...not amazing as they are somewhat reminiscent of Burzum or depressive black metal howls in a sense and are kind of hard to swallow. He breaks into some okay harsh vocals sometimes, but it’s generally high pitched howls.
Lyrically, well, I have little idea what they’re going on about because it’s in Ukrainian, but from what I translated and read about them, it’s all your general Pagan and mysticism, then paralleling it with societal things and hatred and what not. The atmosphere it gives isn’t particularly a nature- oriented feeling other than the odd interlude, but is more dark and depressive as well as pretty sinister, reminiscent of Gorgoroth or Mayhem. A lot of it feels very aggressive, bleak, and savage as well as tortured, and altogether works for an overall chaotic mood.
So while this record definitely isn’t set to create anything new, it’s a formidable release from a band that could become more than just a side band. It would be interesting to see more atmospheric passages infused with metal like they do on the odd part here, which are great, and I think this band can be a quality act some day. If you generally like what comes out of the Ukraine, check them out.
For Fans of: Drudkh, Nokturnal Mortem, Mayhem, Khors, and Gorgoroth.