What to bond over as metalheads when you meet a stranger in a strange land? Metal of course. Black Metal in this case.

Ukrainian Markov Soroka and Uzbek Nyzam Salimbayev met in the US, both immigrants, and discovered that, apart from similar experiences, they shared an interest in Black Metal. Since they didn’t have a mother tongue in common, they tried to communicate in bits of Ukrainian, Russian and English. The wish to communicate and to find a common ground resulted in the band Krukh and ultimately in the album at hand.

While Безглуздість! (Absurdity) is a debut album, the band’s leader, Markov Soroka, although very young at 23, is not an unknown figure and definitely someone to reckon with. He has already attracted a lot of attention in the world of metal with projects like Aureole and Tchornobog.

In Krukh, Soroka, a multi-instrumentalist, plays bass and guitar in addition to doing the vocals. The lead guitars, however, are played by Nyzam Salimbayev, while Shawn Eldrige (Death Fortress, Ruinous) is responsible for the album’s thunderous and literally breath-taking drumming.

Thematically, Absurdity! is influenced by the band members’ experiences as immigrants in the United States and the clashing of Eastern and Western cultures which they witnessed first-hand.

The album’s lyrics mirror the initial communication attempts of Soroka and Salimbayev and are written in Ukrainian, Russian and English. While I’m not sure whether Google translate can be trusted regarding the Ukrainian (probably not), what I could make out as subjects are suffering, the repetitiveness of suffering, its ceaselessness, a longing for death, an insatiable hunger and at the same time a disgust for having to take part in the survival of the fittest.

The beautiful black and white cover art by the German artist Karmazid features a multitude of forms, some remind me of plants and animals, others of body parts and their exposure to elements. In the centre of the drawing is the head of a creature resembling Lovecraft’s Cthulhu, or alternatively the image of a skull. Either Cthulhu or death reign over the multitude. Hidden in the upper left-hand corner you can make out the profile of a man’s face.

A few seconds into the first track, and you’re sucked into complete mayhem. Shawn Eldrige’s arrhythmic, thrashing drumming dominates the album’s opener and hardly gives you a chance to catch your breath. The guitars play beautiful, hypnotic melodies, almost drowned out by the drums. The vocals are strong and deep, enhanced with an echo effect and most of the time mixed way into the background. Listening to this, a feeling of chaos arises, a feeling of being defenceless against incredibly strong forces.

Бесмысленность (Misconception) continuous in a similar fashion as the first track, but with more harmonies and stability. The drums work with the guitars now, not against them. Some kind of order has been established. The chaos has levelled out. From the middle onward, the music has a sludgy and doomy character. Towards the end of the track you can hear the murmurings of a crowd and maybe a lighter being lit repeatedly, or glass broken, then the sound of torrential rain sets in.

Bтрачений (Lost) seems to represent a low point, or a phase of utter powerlessness. Amidst thunder and heavy rain sounds you can make out the slight, sad tones of an acoustic guitar as well as church bells tolling somewhere far away.

The fourth track Горесть (Grief) starts out strong, with mighty, epic riffs. Somebody has found their strength, it seems, and is no longer afraid. The atmosphere is dark, but harmonious. The guitar playing has a comforting quality. But then the atmosphere changes: The tempo becomes faster; the vocals turn into something like a Gregorian chant. Again, you hear the sound of rain and wind and in it the guitar, like an omen of something bad to come.

The final track Голод (Famine) returns to the mayhem of the album’s beginning, though not to its intensity. The track’s lyrics deal with a feeling of disgust for the “survival of the fittest,” the principle that governs all interaction on earth, a repulsion for the “eat or be eaten.” Later on the music changes to sad, melancholy tunes. The track and the album end in emptiness.

With Absurdity! Krukh have delivered an impressive and convincing debut album and a very fine piece of contemporary Black Metal. Along the way they have proven that Black Metal can contribute to intercultural understanding. Who would have thought?

(8.5/10 Slavica)