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'IX Equilibrium' in the Polish way - 90%

Dead_Shall_Rise, November 3rd, 2018
Written based on this version: 2018, CD, Wolfspell Records (Slipcase)

I felt partly obliged to write this review after seeing some disagreeable reviews and comments about this album.

The first thing I have to ask: are people rating metal albums mainly on their musical content or mainly on their production? Sometimes I feel like people are obsessed with the production so much that they're not even listening to the riffs properly. So to be clear, this is how I would rate an album in order of importance: 1. Musical content (song-writing (structure, melodies, harmony etc.)); 2. Originality; 3. Vibe / feeling; 4. Musicianship; 5. Production, and so on.

Secondly, I see that people are still banging on about how Gontnya Kry does not sound like 'Welowie' - a demo that was written in 1997!! Who can possibly expect Gontnya Kry to carry on writing something in a similar style after so much time? I would not even say it's fair to expect a bridging release. Even if there was, you could look at the releases in-between this one and 'Welowie'.

Thirdly, I need to bring up the idea of technicality. I see this seems to be a common point for critique by conservative people in the black metal scene. Again, how "technical" the playing is on a release is irrelevant. The only relevant question is: is it good music? Whether the same notes are played at 100 BPM or 250 BPM is not the question – instead it is what the notes are and more importantly, what the songs are overall. Getting all upset because an atmospheric-style black metal band starts using more notes in an apparently more technical way, suggests you're not listening to it properly. That doesn't mean atmosphere is not important - it simply means the music is different in this case.

With that out of the way, here's what I think about it: 'Ignipoten' is an album that follows on logically from the two albums released in 2008. It is essentially in the same style. The difference here is that it features a real drummer, rather than the programmed drums of the previous two releases, and it features Piąty from Kataxu. Both are welcome additions - especially Piąty, who we can remember for giving an excellent vocal performance on 'Hunger of Elements'. Apparently this album was written much closer to the 2008-11 time period, but was recorded much later due to various (unknown) reasons.

Stylistically it is similar to Emperor's 'IX Equilibrium', but somehow it also has the characteristic that many modern Polish metal bands have, which is a tight performance and clean production. For this reason it does not sound like a typical underground black metal release, and one could almost imagine it being performed on the big stage.

Despite the Emperor similarities, I would argue Gontyna Kry have their own sound, and musically 'Ignipoten' is full of very inspired parts. When you analyse it, it has plenty of flawless, intelligent riffs, which are far from dull, use interesting harmony and together flow well. This suggests it is likely that Warterz Neur has taken the time to improve himself as a musician over the years and has presumably also taken plenty of inspiration from late-Romantic classical music.

My only criticism is that it would have been nice to have a bit more in the way of dynamics, because I find the production quite tiring when I listen to the album all the way through. I also think the mix could have allowed the guitars a little bit more prominence. And for this reason it could be argued the production does not do the songs complete justice. I do not contradict my previous statement by saying this because it was a generalisation, and of course we know that clean production does not necessarily always mean something bad - it just depends.

To conclude, it is a pity nowadays that to be a popular band in black metal you have to go back to basics, use typical occult imagery (we've all seen it thousands of times before) or play something dissonant, chaotic, or even simplistic. (Or a nauseating post-black metal band with no darkness or interesting characteristics). It used to be the case that every black metal did their own thing and didn't follow trends. Since the nowadays black metal scene is a series of "copy and paste" pointless projects, Gontyna Kry are a refreshing band that is still playing in the classic way, with their own personality, whether popular or not. This is the sound of late 90s black metal dragged reluctantly into the year 2018.