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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.