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Gorgeous - 100%

BlackMetal213, May 23rd, 2015

Hailing from Ukraine, a country known for producing heavy weights in the black metal genre such as Drudkh and Nokturnal Mortum, Kroda takes the atmosphere of the coldest black metal and mixes it with beautiful traditional folk music, which seems to be a commonality in this country. "Schwarzpfad" was an interesting case for me when I first heard it, because I heard it back when it was released in May 2011, and at that time, I was still pretty new to the genre, so bands such as Mayhem and Immortal were the most common groups to receive my attention. I had been listening to black metal for a little over a year and a half at that point, so I was still quite new to this music and these bands. "Schwarzpfad" was under my "recommended videos" in YouTube, so always looking to expand my musical intake, I went for it. It's by listening to random bands like this that I end up finding some of the greatest music to ever have pierced my eardrums.

Compared to the previous four Kroda albums, "Schwarzpfad" is a much darker approach to the music. The traditional folk music is still there, but it seems that keyboards throughout the duration of the music, for the most part, let the guitars do a bit more of the talking, so to speak. Keyboards are still a major instrument for Kroda, and a highlight at that, but they seemingly aren't relied on as much, which is absolutely a positive thing. This helps to add an overall more black metal approach to an overall pagan metal sound. Think early Moonsorrow, or Windir. There is use of a flute throughout many of these songs, which is another cliché of this style of black metal, but in my opinion, it has never been a negative cliché. If anything, it only makes the music more enjoyable and beautiful. "First Snow" makes use of this flute during the multiple breaks throughout the song. When the chaos ceases if only for a moment, the flute comes in and a beautiful acoustic melody chimes. Accompanied by a keyboard passage, it is really something special and adds to the atmosphere. The vocals on this album are for the most part harsh and aggressive, like you'd pretty much expect. "Heil Ragnarok!" contains some nice clean vocals, and they are very much a welcomed addition.

This album is very consistent, but at the same time and not in a negative way whatsoever, inconsistent. Inconsistency can actually be a powerful asset in this style of music. It is consistent in keeping a beautiful, Ukranian pagan atmosphere, however, the songs are constantly shifting from fast and aggressive to slow, melodic, and atmospheric. This does very well for the ambiance throughout the record. One thing Kroda has always been exceptional at doing is creating atmosphere, as a band like this is supposed to. The entire 50 minute journey is full of atmosphere and for any fan of pagan black/folk metal, this will be a satisfying release. These five songs are very long pieces of music, acting basically as an orchestrated storybook. It does not get tiring, even though the average song being ten minutes or more, with "Cold Aurora" being the shortest song, only lasting for seven minutes. The music isn't as repetitive as a lot of black metal bands tend to be, which for the more casual listener would be a welcomed attribute. Repetition and simplicity has never been an issue for me, but it's nice to hear a band like Kroda that is always changing something up throughout the songs.

Bottom line, Kroda has done it again by creating a masterpiece. If you haven't listened to anything by this band, and want something to start out with, "Schwarzpfad" is highly recommended, but in reality, any one of Kroda's now six full-length albums would be a great starting point. They are all great, but this one is flawless.

All the Genre Cliches, but Not Shackled by Them - 90%

FullMetalAttorney, June 27th, 2012

Here's another one outside my area of expertise that appeared on Beards etc. Kroda is a Ukrainian pagan metal band. The unpronounceable Schwarzpfad is the band's fourth full-length, and first after significant personnel changes, including losing composer Viterzgir. It's hard to believe this was made by only one man.

It's through-composed black metal, played with some traditional sounds and folk-inspired melodies. The only genuine traditional instrument is a flute (or at least I think it's a real flute), although there are plenty of synthesized instruments. The songs are long, with the typical hard, black metal versus soft, acoustic folk dynamic all over the place. Clean vocals (I believe a baritone) show up in "Schwarzpfad IV (Heil Ragnarok!)". So at first blush, it seems fairly typical for the pagan metal genre. But after multiple listens, it becomes apparent that this is more than just another pagan metal album.

Like just about everything in the genre, the mood is supposed to be epic. Unlike a lot of the genre, it's actually successful at being epic, without being cheesy. The synths rarely draw too much attention to themselves, but even when they do they sound good. The compositional style is excellent as well. While there are some themes that will be repeated, they are played differently each time. I don't think it's fair to say that are any verses or repeated choruses (although with lyrics in Ukrainian it's hard to tell). On top of that, the audible bass and sheer variety of riffing and vocal styles means they're coloring with a box of 64 crayons instead of your typical 8.

Because there is so much variety within the songs, while still maintaining cohesive themes, they make sense and don't get boring. In other words, it's a really good album. It features all the genre cliches prominently, but doesn't allow itself to be shackled by them.

The Verdict: If you like pagan metal, chances are you'll like Schwarzpfad. If you don't like pagan metal, this might be the album that will change your mind.

originally written for http://fullmetalattorney.blogspot.com/

No Viterzgir, no problem - 95%

Viking_Horde, August 1st, 2011

After hearing that Kroda had parted ways with longtime member Vitergir, I was concerned about the band's future. Kroda is a band that I've come to really enjoy listening to, and losing 1/2 of the creative force behind this band didn't sit well with me. Well, after listening to this album, I can rest assured that Kroda is going to be ok after all.

The first track gives the listener a taste of the changes that Kroda have gone through since their last album. There is more integral keyboard to build the atmosphere. It's a welcome addition because it doesn't get overbearing, just enough to add the right touch. Then after a minute or so of crushing black metal, they reassure the listener with the familiar sound of speed picking and then the patented Kroda flute interlude. I think Kroda has the best use of flute in any folk metal band and I needed to hear it asap. 3 more long tracks of this style follow, each with their own distinct nature. The album finally ends with an atmospheric song that will certainly be added to my walking/driving in the winter playlist.

I am very satisfied with the way this album turned out. The new keyboard atmospheric elements are integrated in a way that never interferes with the core music, and the production quality is also refreshing without being overpolished. The vocals are cleaner and have more range, which I think is a wlecome change. And there's finally some acoustic guitar, which I thought for a long time would fit well with their music. I actually expected a much more drastic change from them but that is not the case. There's still plenty of flute and guitar moments that make you go "That's so Kroda!" I'm not sure if Eisenslav did this whole thing or not, but if he did it has to be one of the best one-man albums i've ever heard. I can't wait for the next album now.

KRODA: "SCHWARZPFAD - 93%

IslanderNCS, July 5th, 2011

(This review first appeared here: http://www.nocleansinging.com/2011/07/04/kroda-schwarzpfad/)

Schwarzpfad is more than 50 minutes of music, but I've lost count of how many times it has kept me company. It's without doubt one of the best albums I've heard this year and one of the most memorable black-metal albums I've ever heard -- an immaculate marriage of beautiful, folk-influenced melodies, black 'n' roll strut, and bestial voraciousness. It's a brilliantly conceived, complex work that yields something new with every listen.

The album's five long tracks function almost as movements in a symphony, transitioning without pause from one to the next, and indeed they're titled as parts of a whole (I through V), with subtitles: "First Snow", "Universal Provenances", "Forefather of Hangmen", "Heil Ragnarok!", and "Cold Aurora". There are definable movements within the songs as well, as the band establishes musical themes and then spins out variations on them, using a variety of instruments and tones to carry the emotional leading-edge of these creations. Foremost are the layered guitars, moving between (and often combining) jabbing dissonant riffs; slashing rock chords; echoing melodies that arc into space; and powerful tremolo-executed waves of sonic force.

The pagan/folk music influence appears throughout the first four songs on the album, sometimes through the high-pitched tremolo guitar melodies (reminiscent of a balalaika), and often through interludes in which a changing combination of flute, acoustic guitar, and ambient synthesizer carry the melodies.

The performance of the rhythm section on Schwarzpfad is just as strong as that of the lead instruments. Unlike most "traditional" black metal, the songs on Schwarzpfad feature vivid, often intricate bass lines that are quite audible. Nor do the drums take a back-seat. No muffled rumbling, more felt than heard, on this album, but instead an exercise in well-integrated variety -- flashing from black 'n' roll rock-beats to rumbling double-bass and scorching blasts to complex fills that wouldn't be amiss on a prog-metal album. Not to be outdone by all the instrumental extravagance, the vocal performances on the album are equally varied -- lung-bursting shrieks of agonized extremity; deep, caustic growls; ghostly whispers; the wordless notes of a massed chorus; and even clean vocal harmonies on "Heil Ragnarok!".

Over the course of tracks I through IV, the emotional mood is in constant flux as the band transitions from rolling gallops to plaintive laments, from swirling folk-dances to headbanging romps, from passages of almost peaceful reflection to blast-waves of screaming outrage. The final track (at just over 7 minutes, the shortest of the five) draws the album to a close with a synthesized instrumental piece, orchestral in style, evoking a mood captured by its title -- "Cold Aurora". It moves from an ambient drone into a slow, dreamlike melody, with shimmering tones, the swell of strings, long flute-like notes, and finally the sound of a tide advancing and receding on a cold beach, subsiding into silence.

In both conception and execution, Schwarzpfad is a tremendously impressive work of melodic black metal that commands attention and respect. It's music that's both serious-minded and bloody-minded. It kicks out the jams with a vengeance just as often as it carries you away on horseback through dark northern forests. It becomes even more impressive when you realize that it seems to be the creation of a single multi-talented individual (Eisenslav) -- the first Kroda album since the band became a solo effort following the departure of Viterzgir in 2010.