No stranger to these pages Vaarwel has worked incredibly hard since the Russian first conceived Frozen Ocean back in 2005 and notched up a wealth of releases. You never know when to expect him or what he is going to release as genre wise he certainly doesn’t conform to anything conventional. For this reason he has kind of been pushed from pillar to post and scrabbled away to get his work put out by any number of small and obscure labels. Hopefully this is all about to change though as his first release of 2016 EP ‘The Prowess Of Dormition’ sees him collaborating with niche and eclectic UK label Apocalyptic Witchcraft. Fingers crossed this could well be a match that sees both parties getting a bit more exposure and a partnership that will continue for time to come. No doubt with his track record Vaarwel has plenty of forthcoming material to throw at them.
One thing that you should be aware of is that you will get some excellent artwork to go with the release and here that is no exception as here Divine Chaos art have constructed a frosty tableaux, one look at which is guaranteed to chill you to the bones. First real task is to say what the hell is that title all about. Always giving us a challenge though I am prepared to stumble myself through something scientific well above my ken and try and explain it. Well apparently it’s esoteric rather than scientific as Dormition is defined as “the passing of the Virgin Mary from earthly life.” Prowess is skill or expertise in a particular field or bravery in battle. Put them together and you have, well a bit of confusion. Let’s go back to the coldness of the artwork and the music itself rather than getting anymore out my depth.
Perhaps the calm before the storm, ‘No Blizzard’ tinkles in with some sparkling keyboard notes before a rich kaleidoscopic patella of bombastic instrumentation crunches in with hoary vocal roars not far behind. It’s majestic and has plenty of weight behind it as it melodically thrusts away and quickly draws you in. Musically it is hard to define, extreme certainly but not easy to tag with anything like a ‘file under black metal’ moniker. It does have a pagan furrow about it and a bit of a heathen cleave but then again with some jaunty keyboards coming in there is even a bit of a techno edge as well. It’s best looked at as a wild wintry sleigh ride as far as I am concerned and it is like having been transported to Narnia, full of magic and wonderment. Head-banging is not a problem; it is a heavy and tumultuous ride and has you hanging on for dear life. Like a lovely mug of hot chocolate with a shot in naturally ‘Once Aglow’ takes the chill off a little. Some melodic and even medieval sounding melody wraps itself around things and the guitars weave away. Throaty roars sound barbaric and disgruntled dwelling in this wonderland like a savage fairy-tale beast but rather than threatening, narrating the odyssey with deep wisdom behind them. A mellow moonlight sonata is taken up by the keyboard at the midway point before everything crashes back in and blazes away; a sure case of expecting the unexpected! ‘Det Siste Snøfallet’ is actually an old number given a new reworking and certainly feels cold and Norse as it gets its icy talons in. A jaunty refrain has you jigging away to it like trolls are suddenly partying in a hidden frozen chasm and instrumental or not it has a huge and epic sense of atmosphere in it. Summoning fans should certainly be summoned in its direction. The title track is last and careens off with vocals sounding a bit more forceful and raw in the mix. It’s not all helter-skelter but has some grandiose peaks to straddle too as the wild ride conveys a sense of maudlin reflective sorrow along the way. Not to worry too much though as naturally with a flourish it all dashes past the final post making you want to get back on board and play it again straight away.
The one complaint is that at 4 tracks running just under half an hour this leaves you wanting more but as a work it does feel complete and does not leave you feeling cheated, just looking forward to what is to come next.
(8/10 Pete Woods)