Black metal is a genre blessed with unending variety. Even more so than most other subgenres, it is extremely apt to be infused with a local flavour. Its cross-pollination with traditional music in Eastern Europe in particular is no coincidence, for it is indeed a style of music that stands close to the soul, and therefore to the native surroundings of the artist. It is important to realise that a regional sound is not always carved solely by followers’ imitation of a group of pioneering artists, but also by the inherently similar viewpoints of those whose roots reach into the same patch of soil.
Stryvigor’s employment of an unmistakable Ukrainian sound is thus by no means a vice. On its debut album, Forgotten By Ages, this recently founded band displays a style that will immediately evoke identification with Drudkh. With riffs that trade in technicality for entrancing atmospheres, Stryvigor travels down a path that many of their compatriots treaded before.
Though constructed with a familiar template, relatively short songs see Stryvigor offer more energetic and diverse compositions compared to the dramatic long-windedness that the more dogmatic contingent of Drudkh’s disciples latches on to. At times, riffs even reach back to the classic Norwegian style, such as the intro of “By Pathway of the Universe” [sic], that builds upon the legacy of Darkthrone’s unholy trinity.
Forgotten By Ages demonstrates that the traits of Ukrainian black metal have not emerged gratuitously from collective stagnation.
Lyrically, Stryvigor sets off to do what we have come to expect from Ukrainian bands. Nature is eulogised according to the Romantic tradition and presented as a Sublime entity. In contrast, however, to the pure nature worship that metal projects of the pagan variety tend to limit themselves to, Forgotten By Ages transcends this senseless appreciation of foliage. As the album progresses, the aureate forests and grey-haired steppes are gradually transformed into scenes of human activity; the stars observe as soldiers march through that once-inhospitable forest that is now the protector of these freedom fighters. For a moment, the music throws off its mystical cloak and dips into reality. It is this encounter between legend and the real world that permeates metal with a sense of excitement and awe that one would be hard-pressed to encounter in any other modern musical genre.
Forgotten By Ages demonstrates that the traits of Ukrainian black metal have not emerged gratuitously from the collective laziness of projects that do not involve Roman Saenko. Instead, many of these traits are a manifestation of Volksgeist in music. The handling of nature-inspired lyrics resonates with the Slavic tradition of invoking the unfamiliar, the strange, the unreal to reflect upon the bleakness of physical reality. While Stryvigor’s quality thus resides in subtleties, this band has a healthy vision of the true power of black metal. And their journey has only just commenced.
Note: A review copy of this album was provided by Svarga Music.