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Vietah - Smalisty zah - 70%

Phuling, June 14th, 2011

Wow, this is really not how I expected the follow-up to Zorny maroz to sound like. The 2008 debut album surprised me by being really good, despite lacking uniqueness, and despite the fact that the Burzum influence was blatantly obvious. So I assumed the follow-up, Smalisty zah, would continue down the same path. Well, I suppose it does, but still quite differentely.

The Burzum influence is still clear for all to hear, but the music’s taken a step away from the typical howling side of depressive black metal, and opted for a slightly more aggressive style. Vocally I definitely don’t miss the howls, a type of vocals that in nine out of ten cases will just annoy me like crazy. Here, Antarctis (the one-man army of Vietah) have gone for a much harsher and raspier growling set of vocals, sounding somewhat typical eastern European in style, where I can’t help but think of North and such for comparison. Despite not understanding a word he’s screaming, I love the fact that the pronunciation is so audible, adding that ultra-aggressive touch that only similar languages can. On the previous album I was uncertain whether or not it was a drum machine, but in the end figured it probably was. Here I was even more confounded, since the bass drum sound is so warm and life-like, but the snare sounds pretty much exactly the same throughout the entire album. If it is programmed I have to say it’s one of the best works ever in that department, sounding so life-like it’s hardly noticeable that it isn’t.

For songs like Zmjarcvielyja krajavidy praz smaljany pozirk krumkacha and Pavolny paljot pa-nad ljasnym kurganom the repetitive style of riffing that earlier Burzum works relied upon is all but too damn obvious. And despite not minding it at first, in the long-run the repetition becomes a bit tedious. That’s why a track like Smalisty zah is so refreshing in its blasting approach. The riffing’s still repetitive, but it goes by in a much faster tempo, the drumming’s faster and the song, albeit still extremely reminiscent of Burzum, is much more aggressive and brutal, and has an even more prominent eastern European styled black metal touch.

The downside of the album is definitely the instrumental interludes Vosienskija spadarožniki u nocz and Paslja paunocznaja ciszynja. Despite being very atmospheric and effective, they’re too long to be placed in the middle of the album, since over six minutes of ambience kills the natural flow of the record. It would’ve been much more fitting as an intro/outro, since it’d been a mellower start and ending rather than a sudden halt. Instead, the ending track of the album is a cover of Darkthrone’s Quintessence, but translated into Belorussian. The original lyrics was written by (surprise surprise) Varg Vikernes, once again stating the obvious influence from the guy.

It’s a good album, it is, different, yet similar to its predecessor. I’m not exactly sure which I like the best, since both albums have its positive and negative attributes. So I think I’ll settle with them both being equally as good, but in different ways.

Originally written for My Last Chapter