Kroda - Schwarzpfad
Purity Through Fire
Pagan Black Metal
5 songs (50:28)
Release year: 2011
Reviewed by Tony
Album of the month
There is a large Black Metal show planned in Austria, birthplace of one Adolf Hitler and a nation very akin to their German neighbors. Kroda planned on being one of the marquis performances and many fans bought their tickets specifically to see the Ukrainian artists. Unfortunately, due to their oft disputed political ties, Antifa got involved and Kroda nobly removed themselves from the show, forsaking a lot of money and saddening many fans so that the show may go on uninterrupted. Is it too much of a challenge to look beyond the politics of Metal and enjoy the music present? Not so for the naysayers in Austria. What I see when I hear the studio record Schwarzpfad from now sole studio member Eisenslav is a slight change in direction that yields forth brilliant results. This is not going to be an album that divides fans between those who support “old” and “new” Kroda like there are arguments between post and Tarja included Nightwish or Johan era/Angela era Arch Enemy. Here, Kroda favor a significantly darker atmosphere. The flutes, acoustic guitars, and localized Ukrainian vibes are still present. This is still very much folkloric Black Metal, but the riffs and overall feel of the album is darker. It feels as if one is meandering through a moonlit forest, versus the sunlit and auburn passages that Kroda had previous plied so many times before.

The very riffs of Schwarzpfad I: First Snow speak volumes of how Kroda strove to build a darker yet still very much Ukrainian styling. First Snow is nearly ten minutes long, there are moments of upbeat groove, of fantasy like flute and guitar passages, and heavy aggression. What First Snow proves is Eisenslav can clearly take his atmospheric aura to a different tinge and still maintain the brilliance of Kroda. If Towards the Firmaments… was the sunrise and Fimbulvinter was the coming blizzard, then Schwarzpfad brings us travelling after dark through the snow covered peaks and darkened caves that litter the mountainside of what I see when I listen to Schwarzpfad. Each song moves as one, five tracks, nearly an hour of music, a Black Metal symphony. On Schwarzpfad II: Universal Provenances we see a slow developing but incredibly multifarious track that is more progressive than it is heavy. Eisenslav has some of his most emotionally charged and harsh vocals he has ever performed.

At about the halfway mark a beautifully woven guitar and flute harmony runs for a few measures before a deep and thrashy riff pick up. It is quite clear that Eisenslav has written some of his most diverse music here. It may not be Kroda’s best ever, but it proves that no matter where he takes Kroda you can always be sure you’re buying stock in an outstanding work. The vocals on Schwarzpfad sound harsher and more powerful than ever before. It is clear that Eisenslav wrote these words with a whole heart, leaving nothing and bringing his all to the stage. Universal Provenances continues for a few minutes of sparkling melodies and tremolo picked riffs before an abrupt end and the beginning of the third chapter. Schwarzpfad III: Forefather of Hangmen begins with the sounds of blustery winds and crashing waves before a dark and warm acoustic guitar pattern enters. Suddenly a heavy salvo of a few minutes comes through before the customary flutes and progressive riffs take over. While never hearing more than Towards the Firmaments… and a few Youtube tracks from their other two albums, Kroda here bring a dimension they have not previously wrought onto their magic, that being excellent riffs. Who listened to Kroda for the riffs before Schwarzpfad? So many Black Metal bands don’t even give the listener a focus but instead establish a greater overall atmosphere. Schwarzpfad has everything.

These five tracks mark a slight change in direction for Eisenslav; nonetheless a brilliant one. If Kroda continued on this way for their next release or merely reverted to their older style either way I would be thrilled. I am beginning to believe this is one of the rare bands that cannot do wrong. There are heavy moments, times of pure ancestral melody, natural harmony, and aural dissonance. This may not appeal to those who prefer the brighter atmosphere of albums like Towards the Firmaments… but to any non-discriminating fan of the Ukrainians Schwarzpfad marks another chapter in a glorious history of Pagan Metal.

Killing Songs :
Tony quoted 92 / 100
Other albums by Kroda that we have reviewed:
Kroda - Towards the Firmaments Verge of Life... reviewed by Tony and quoted 97 / 100
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