This is black metal from Iran – not a common event, I imagine. “Forgotten Glory” is influenced by Iran’s art, literature, history, mythology and music. Akvan have been active and productive since 2015.

It starts with an ostensibly calming and wistful traditional piece, which puts us in our Middle Eastern surroundings immediately. Yet in the calm of the tar there is the sound of horses running and human cries as if there is turmoil or war. Commendably “King ov Kings” does not switch styles as though “Path to Chaos” had never happened but continues in the traditional vein, with a Farsi speech over it. And then … a blood curdling scream takes us into the dirtiest, most frantic, eastern-fused black metal you could ever want. It is atmospheric, imperious and original. The traditional instruments come in, the track slows down and there is fire and melancholy as we are led to a supreme and epic climax, ending in a hymn. This mystical tale continues with the hauntingly traditional “Realm ov Fire”. With its blend of ethnicity and ferocious darkness this reminds a little of France’s Arkan, but here the blend is stronger and the darkness is creepier and foggier. Melancholic despair penetrates this atmospheric piece. The world rumbles on grimly and exotically.

The album takes a turn as the storms and thunder descend upon us for “Tabaristan”. Sweeping and echoing, the eastern element is in the background as the growling vocalist tells his terrible tale, backed by thunderous and yet epic instrumentals. The pattern continues with the mix of black violence and menace. The sky is covered in the darkest of clouds. “Blood ov Zal” represents musical loftiness. After all this power there’s a sombre, doom-like interlude, but any semblance of peace is quickly broken by the echoing ferocity and brimstone of “Fire and Steel”. The instrumentals sound distant and alienated as fury and fire rage on. It’s quite spooky. It breaks off for a tar-driven ethnic section, not that it was ever far away. Strangely this morphs into heavy metal widdlery but only briefly as the darkest of dark clouds return. “Legacy” starts in a slower and more reflective fashion but I had come to realise by this stage that this was always going to be temporary, as the sound expands and wavers between melancholy and hissing horror. I detected a touch of Burzum in the withering instrumental of spite “IR 655”, a dark, stormy hymn. The storm dies but the rain remains as we are led into “Silence ov Butterflies”, the final act. At first birds sing in this rainy scene as a sombre eastern tune is played. Then there is silence – time for reflection, I suppose, but too long at 3 minutes – before a final surge comprising all the good and powerful elements that characterise this work.

“Forgotten Glory” is quite a journey, even if I didn’t pick up the progression of the journey. Black metal heaviness meets the flavours and sounds of the Middle East to make it into a deep and atmospheric experience.

(8.5/10 Andrew Doherty)