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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.

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