Perhaps an unfamiliar name to most, Russian black metal outfit Vspolokh have been around since 2004. Their debut album was released in 2010, with the intervening decade leading to this sophomore punctuated by a handful of split releases. Google insists that the title Помре is Ukrainian, and whilst the origin of this translation is disputable, “He Will Die” loosely supports the promotional blurb accompanying the release, as it states “in mainstream literature, the anti-hero dies – but in the Ural one, everyone dies”.

Thematically, “Pomre” investigates this aforementioned Ural literature, particularly the mythos surrounding the Ural mountains. The Urals form a conventional border between Europe and Asia, rising from Kazakhstan in the south up to the fringes of the Arctic Ocean in northern Russia, providing Vspolokh with a rich and diverse heritage to explore.

“Pomre” has an ominous beginning, with faint tortured voices howling through a sandstorm, wind chimes audible in the background. A swell of guitar feedback then segues us “Into The Netherworld”. This album is awash with a wide spectrum of textures, Vspolokh clearly borrowing from several regional influences in order to weave their own otherworldly atmosphere.

The organic restraint displayed in some passages bring the Slavic black metal flavours of Drudkh to mind, whilst huge riffs and hypnotic guitar melodies portray a heathen epicness similar to Finnish neighbours Moonsorrow. Folk elements also take the form of subtle choral vocals, flute and periodic acoustic intervals.

Closing track “Czernotop” arguably saves the best until last, a nine minute epic which makes effective use of those reflective folk seasonings and soaring melodic riffage, introducing tribal percussion to enhance the threatening atmospherics.

To summarise, Vspolokh have presented a remarkably elegant offering of culturally rich heathen black metal, which now sends me scurrying off to investigate their (albeit diminutive) back catalogue.

(8/10 Doogz)