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The New Weird is never too weird - 85%

autothrall, December 5th, 2017
Written based on this version: 2017, CD, I, Voidhanger Records

The elephant always in the room with a Bloodway record is that the band is an auditory vehicle for one of the most unique, compelling visual artists in the entire metal medium, Costin Chioreanu. Hell, even on a bad day, this man's cover and graphic design work is more fascinating, abstract and eye-catching than nearly anyone else out there, so when A Fragile Riddle Crypting Clues arrived, or its predecessor Mapping the Moment with the Logic of Dreams, I must have spent ten minutes just looking at the things before even daring to explore the music itself. No pressure. Thankfully, ever since the first EP back in 2014, the Romanian three-piece has delivered an experience aurally that can rival its imagery, a hybrid of progression and extremity that circles the drain of its black metal ancestry but then runs off in rivulets in a myriad of directions without sacrificing a coherent musical narrative.

Hypnotic, atonal ambiance and poetry inaugurate this sophomore full-length before the tumultous chords erupt, coiled and dissonant but with a subtext of melody that creates a warmer feel than your garden variety newsprint black metal. Costin proscribes to the tortured soul, huffing style of snarled vocal which is slightly higher pitched than many of his peers, suicidal in shape, and very likely to drive half the potential audience mad within moments of hearing it. I am not in that half, because I appreciate the strange contrast it creates against the busier, roiling mold into which the riffs are formed. Organic rhythm guitars teeming with melancholic chords, whether configured into pure black metal chords or flights of thrashier picking, often with an alien feel reminiscent of a band like the mighty Voivod, though that is not always the rule. Nicely balanced bass lines that often hum just below the frenzied fretwork, but occasionally swell up to a more distinct, popping fervor with a few curious lines of their own. The drums are splashy, constantly attentive, and laced with the fills and footwork requisite to fulfill the demands of the eclectic riffing progressions.

I want to say I'm reminded of high-brow progressive metal acts like Opeth or Cormorant, only with a lot more natural, less processed, less 'safe' tone and structure to the guitars and presentation, and capped off by vocals that are far more in the vein of bands like Weakling, Bethlehem or Burzum, but not copies. The album is super well rounded in terms of how harsher passages are countered off by gentler moments and then swung back around to a passionate, frenzied crescendo. You'll find differently structure riffs and harmonies in all the metal tracks, revealing that Chironeau is well-versed in a lot of metal beyond just the blackness at the core of the project, occasionally glazed with gloomy pure heavy-metal or progressive rock. The guy has been in a large number of other bands in the past, and you can tell he doesn't cast any of those aesthetics aside, instead inserting them whenever they flow a track in an interesting direction. There's a real treat, a novelty in listening to a Bloodway album that puts them easily into recommendation territory, especially if you're into eclectic stuff like Blut Aus Nord, Deathspell Omega, Enslaved, or other entrepreneurs in the medium. Never less than impressive, if you're willing to decode the nuances.


Bloodway is the Best Way! - 90%

SlayerDeath666, November 24th, 2017
Written based on this version: 2017, Digital, I, Voidhanger Records

Romania is not thought of as a large source of good metal but over the years, bands like Negura Bunget, Dordeduh, and An Theos have proven that there is life in the Romanian scene. All three of those bands have produced incredible music that is genuinely unique. They have established themselves as great bands that are here to stay. Now there is a new player in the Romanian scene who are a little different but equally unique. Hailing from Bucharest, Bloodway are a progressive black metal band who, just this month, unleashed their sophomore album, A Fragile Riddle Crypting Clues, on the metal world.

Unlike many black metal bands out there today, Bloodway actually brings legitimately good riffs to the table. Yes, lo-fi production and speedy tremolo picking are very much a part of this album as they are with almost every black metal band out there. The difference here is that Costin can and does really riff. His melodies are often rather simple and the riffs are sometimes short but they are always purposeful and powerful. Take the riff-melody sequence starting around the five minute mark of “Don’t Wake the Void” for example. The riffs are not huge but they pack a punch and Costin’s melodies are both sad and hopeful, reflecting the dark reality that was not supposed to be. This is the way Costin writes and it is why Bloodway is such an interesting listen. The opening riff of “Midlight Scout” is pretty heavy for black metal and it sticks with you because it is such a good riff. Even Costin’s tremolo picking is often heavier and more interesting than normal. The last minute and a half or so of “Midlight Scout” is almost non-stop tremolo picked riffs but it goes back and forth between the heavy tremolo, the mid-quality tremolo and the fast and furious, ultra kvlt tremolo we all know and love.

If you listen closely, you can hear Mihai’s bass booming in the background on most of Bloodway’s songs. Sometimes, it comes more to the forefront and catches you by surprise because his lines are so simple and yet so groovy. Alex Ghita is the real star here though. His work behind the kit is straight up incredible. He showcases so much variety back there and at no point does he resort to blast beats or double kick. Alex opens “Encounters to Pray For” by repeatedly hitting the sticks together in such a way that it sounds like a call to war and then he lays down some awesome fills and beats that keep the song firmly in high gear. It does not stop there as Alex does some pretty sweet things with cymbals and rim hits all throughout this album. The cymbals are sometimes a touch too high in the mix but most of the time they perfectly accent Costin’s great riffs. If you still need convincing, the title track is a brilliant encapsulation of Alex’s talent and skills behind the kit. Drummers rarely stand out for something other than speed in black metal but Alex shines on this album and as a result, so do Bloodway.

Costin’s vocals are a real polarizer, even among black metal fans. Some would call them atrocious or hard to listen to and others just call them unique. They are definitely off-putting at first but once you get used to them, you start to understand his approach somewhat. Costin conveys what most black metal vocalists try but ultimately fail to convey, true torture and anguish. His deliver is not one of sorrow because he is not sad. He is a tortured soul suffering eternal anguish over faded dreams and the harsh, nightmarish reality in which we live. Technically, the best comparison to make is to Varg in the early days of Burzum because they are exceptionally harsh and sound a bit like a dying cat. Varg did it to be minimalist and used the cheapest equipment he could find so naturally, it sounds like shit. Costin’s delivery is purely one of choice as there is nothing cheap or bad about the equipment being used and he is not going for a stripped down approach of any kind. It truly sounds tortured and pained but it gets the message across loud and clear. He does it for the right reasons, it works for him, and you know what? Even if you do not have the lyrics in front of you (which you should because they are great lyrics), you can understand most of what Costin is saying in these songs. It may be an off-putting delivery but it works incredibly well for him and for Bloodway. He even throws in some cleans every once in a while to keep you on your toes.

Bloodway is not for everyone. They will not even appeal to many stalwart black metal fans but to the fans, they push all the right buttons. They are doing things that are unique without overdoing them. When you put all of that together, what you get is an excellent sophomore album from a great Romanian band. If you enjoy black metal that is thoroughly off the beaten path, Bloodway may be the band for you. Even if the vocals keep you from enjoying it, at least the music is interesting and not the same, rehashed second wave worship you have heard a million times.

- originally written for The Metal Observer