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Pretty decent metal from Latvia - 73%

Daemonlord, July 17th, 2011

Latvian metal anyone? As great as the Baltic metal scene is as a whole, to be perfectly honest I've only really ever been aware of a single Latvian band ever (the fantastic Skyforger). In fact, I'd have bet my favorite testicle that if there were any others of worth that I've been missing all these years, you could've scribbled the whole list on the back of a postage stamp. Well, apparently I'm wrong. Latvia have a pretty strong scene going on by the looks of things, and Urskumug are here to shove that in everyone's faces with a pretty damn impressive debut release.

Getting the usual throwaway 'industrial' intro out of the way, the first true song begins with a beefed up, crushing riff (borrowing a few Voivod chords by the sound of things) that really made me sit up and take notice. Urskumug actually sound a fair bit like late Emperor at times, albeit a more anomalous and less progressive Empiric entity with really strange arrangements, shimmering arpeggios laden over tremolo picked natural harmonics (that's jangley bits over tootley bits for the non-musicians out there), and a hell of a lot of atmosphere. The production is top notch, helping the album to sound like full on battle involving legions of warriors as opposed to a drunken scuffle in a pub car park, and the musicianship is faultless throughout (again made more noticeable by the pristine studio sheen). Even with the perfect sound though, the album is still as raw as you could want, and barbaric as a barbarian covered in barbs, who works for Barbarian Wrath. Think of the new Merrimack album, and you'll have a rough idea what I'm rambling about. There's also some good use of synthesizer work throughout the more chilled sections, helping to bring the Latvian folk-vibe to the fore a lot more, which works really well when taken in context with the rest of music.

The band themselves say that they play 'Tribal Black Metal'. Well, personally I don't like that term, mainly for the fact it makes me think of Max Cavalera. No-one wants that nowadays. But rest assured, Urskumug are a breed apart from any dubious Portuguese grave translations, or flying souls for that matter (see what I did there? me clever). Go check 'em out.

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