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Kawir - Isotheos - 90%

Annihislater, December 15th, 2012

Greece – This Mediterranean hotbed for holidaymakers isn’t the first place that springs to mind when one mentions black metal. Despite a handful of cult-classic releases from the likes of Rotting Christ, Varathron and Necromantia back in the early 90’s, the country never really earned the reputation of other notable countries such as Norway (as an obvious example). And as such I feel the scene over there has perhaps been somewhat overlooked in recent times, which is a shame as there are some very good bands if you take the time to find them. Nocternity and perhaps controversially Der Stürmer are amongst my favourites, but the real cream of the Hellenic black metal crop as far as I’m concerned is Kawir.

Kawir formed way back in 1993, and after a demo, split with Sigh and a couple of EP’s they released their first album in 1997 which was for the most part an extension of the previous EP. Fast forward to 2012, with a handful of split EP’s and Albums in the meantime, the band have released their fifth studio album entitled Isotheos. Thematically the band could be seen as Hellenic alternative to the current crop of Nordic pagan/Asatru themed metal that’s going round. And with such a rich history and mythology that’s far more known about than its Nordic counterpart, it’s a surprise that this Hellenic mythology hasn’t been tapped into more.

I imagine having made reference to both pagan themes and black metal that a few might be wondering how far does the band lean towards folk metal, and how accurate is the black metal description? Is it just a buzz word to make them seem somehow more mature as a folk metal band despite not having much by the way of black metal in their sound? Well you can rest assure if you’re a fan of black metal. The band is firmly rooted in black metal, and is first and foremost a black metal band. The folk influence is really rather subtle and tastefully done. It comes across more in the atmosphere and the folky nature of some of the riffs, as well as occasional clean vocals and a flute like instrument that appears periodically.

The band has a really good feel for writing songs, and letting the song develop over time. They aren’t in any rush to blast through the album as fast as they can. Only 1 of the 8 tracks on offer here is under six minutes (an instrumental) with two of them exceeding nine minutes. But when you consider the album is a tribute to gods and beliefs of old, you can’t pay homage to something you care passionately and do it half heartedly, you have to put your all in and craft something fit to honour that which you are honouring. Take Hymn to Apollo for example, you can’t convey the awe that such a deity evokes in a 3 minute blast fest, you need to build something, and really evoke a feeling, something I feel Kawir do wonderfully well.

Kawir know when to slow things down, when some good old fashioned pagan fury is required, when to have the riff as the focal point, when to tone it back in favour of a vocal, when blast beats are appropriate and what sort of riff best evokes the feeling of the melody they are presenting. And I feel this is where the band excels. They seem to me to be very aware of what sounds good, and what works, and seemingly aren’t afraid to put in the time and effort in achieving their vision. Whilst nothing is revolutionary or ground breaking or the most perfect example of the genre, there is an honesty in their music, a feeling of these elements being greater than the sum of their parts. And I feel it’s this combined with their unusual folky feel that really set’s them apart and makes their music worth hearing.

I think if you are approaching this from a fan of black metal it’s sufficiently different and stands out from the crowd enough to warrant your attention. I think if you’re a fan of folk metal but worry you might be put of by some of the more black metal elements I would say don’t worry, this is very approachable and would make a nice gateway album for someone looking to get into more black metal from a folk metal perspective. And if you’re a fan of both, well then you’re laughing aren’t you, what are you waiting for? Get on this now, it is mandatory listening for you.

Originally written for Destructive Music