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Zarabanda Moon > Unseen Forest Patriot > Reviews
Zarabanda Moon - Unseen Forest Patriot

Eccentric and individual work of raw 1990s-inspired lo-fi melodic BM - 75%

NausikaDalazBlindaz, March 11th, 2021

One of the last three works made in 2020 by USBM musician Lam, in his solo raw BM project Zarabanda Moon, before he died in February 2021, "Unseen Forest Patriot" is a highly individualistic work of raw lo-fi black metal full of atmosphere, feeling and unusual and unexpected experimentation. (The other two works, recorded under another project Hand of Glory, are an album "Ceaseless Negation of Color & Joy" and a split recording with New Zealand BM act Enshroud.) Listening to "Unseen Forest Patriot" has been a curious experience: apart from knowing that its creator is no more, and the album is the last of a small but distinctive musical legacy, I found even by the very relaxed standards of BM regarding how much lunacy the genre tolerates (and it does tolerate a great deal!) the album is really oddball with the music diving into timbres and tones I wouldn't have thought still existed outside BM and resurfacing in strange and compelling dark dimensions. Lam's musical influences among others included the 1990s-era Russian Blazebirth Hall group of bands (Branikald, Forest, Raven Dark, Vargleide) who in their time made some amazingly incredible and beautiful atmospheric BM even though their far-right ideology was repellent and some if not most of the musicians involved in the bands died violent and senseless deaths. I can definitely hear some of the Blazebirth Hall influence and can also hear a bit of the old French Black Legions bands whose circle was active about the same time as Blazebirth Hall.

Though Lam played all instruments on the album and the production is at least basic if not very lo-fi, from the very start the music combines rich emotion, even melodrama, with intense and darker-than-dark mood music and highly idiosyncratic vocals whether clean-toned (and very depressed) or BM. Reverb adds not just a cold frigid ambience but also a shadowy underground patina over the vocals and music. The tinny percussion, background gabbling voices and steaming-funk texture of the bass and rhythm guitars add more layers of shadow mystery. Guitar riffs are apt to go off at odd tangents against the rest of the music giving the impression of busy cacophony in most tracks.

All tracks have details that are distinct if perhaps unusual. "First Ancestor" features the most unearthly clean groaning vocals, moments of sheer ambient melancholy while "Marching Tombs" early on has two layers of guitar riffs that seem to belong to different songs going at once. These are chased out by a shrill squealing scrabbly lead guitar solo later in the track. "Honorbound Vengeance" is memorable for noisy guitar squall with dark subterranean melodies and shrieking vocals beneath, followed by an aggressive guitar-dominated coda completely different from the rest of the song. The title track doesn't quite match the other songs in unique features but its style is massive and dense in a steamy lo-fi way.

Zarabanda Moon's brand of raw melodic martial BM may be faithful to Lam's inspirations but go off on a noisy path deep into very dark depressive territory that can be dangerously bewitching on listeners. Once you start with a couple of songs, you simply have to stay the course - the ambience and the melancholy are deep, almost unbearably so, and you can almost touch the anguish and the pain. The atmosphere, the mood and the liberties taken with aspects of the raw melodic 1990s old-school BM style are what make this recording special and Lam's death tragic. His vision and creativity were unique indeed.