Can’t argue with a country that produced the likes of Drudkh, Hate Forest and Blood Of Kingu; yup, Zgard is a one man black metal act from the Ukraine, and according to trusty old Metal Archives the second full-length our boy Yaromisl has released with the debut coming out all the way back in…February. Does that mean another one of those hyper-productive black metal projects who don’t allow time to draw a breath between releases? Well, probably. Blowing in with ‘Icy Indifference’ is indeed a chilly blizzard of an intro with synths sweeping over like a layer of frost before the album starts proper with ‘Reclusion’. This is mid paced and dark, doom-infested black metal with a vocal line that drudges heavily over a backdrop of depressive guitars. The intensity seems to build through towards the end and ‘Witchcraft Of Winter’ seems to once again blow in with the changing of seasons. This album overall has a very frosty feel to it, like a soundtrack to the thickest, coldest winter days deep in the Ukrainian forests. The track here sweeps gracefully with some wonderfully sorrowful and hypnotic melodies, all wrapped within an oppressive, cloying atmosphere.
‘Eternity’ is very synth heavy and has a bit of a cosmic vibe to the keys which play out over a scything guitar riff that has rather a classic heavy metal feel to it. ‘Rise Of Coldness’ warms up through a foreboding orchestral intro, feeling that we are building to something cataclysmic and then before too long an ominous and depressive sounding guitar comes in and crushes everything down beneath its weight, keyboards adding to the dark ambience as it piles on the misery and that feeling of solitude really comes to the fore. At times I am reminded quite a bit of label mates Benighted In Sodom through the oppressive cloying atmosphere and the guitar sound. Around the seven minute mark a flute brings a saccharin yet sorrowful folk melody into the fold as the music sweeps up to a more epic level. This is very fluid and weaves a beautiful tale of sorrow as the coldness rises. Through the anguished female cries comes the ‘Weeping Goddess’ which takes darkness to a whole new level; this is menacing and discordant with a chaotic maelstrom of esoteric madness akin to Blut Aus Nord. A putrid growl is emitted, while the repetitive melody draws the listener under its spell. A sudden toot on the flute lightens the mood momentarily before coming to a real abrupt halt. ‘In The Roots Of World Tree’ continues that chaotic esotericism while incorporating a folksy melody that reminds me of fellow Ukrainians Drudkh.
Overall this has a very depressive tone to it and at times a sinister atmosphere, while bringing more of a folk flavour out sporadically especially on later tracks. It’s a very good album but occasionally feels a little unfocussed, as though there are too many ideas being thrown into one place. Still, there is a lot to like here especially if the idea of depressive folk black metal appeals. And if you miss out on this one, chances are there’ll be another two releases from Zgard before the year is out!
(7/10 Luci Herbert)