Thursday, February 16, 2012

Kroda: Schwarzpfad (2011)


Here's another one outside my area of expertise that appeared on Beards etc. Kroda is a Ukrainian pagan metal band. The unpronounceable Schwarzpfad is the band's fourth full-length, and first after significant personnel changes, including losing composer Viterzgir. It's hard to believe this was made by only one man.

It's through-composed black metal, played with some traditional sounds and folk-inspired melodies. The only genuine traditional instrument is a flute (or at least I think it's a real flute), although there are plenty of synthesized instruments. The songs are long, with the typical hard, black metal versus soft, acoustic folk dynamic all over the place. Clean vocals (I believe a baritone) show up in "Schwarzpfad IV (Heil Ragnarok!)". So at first blush, it seems fairly typical for the pagan metal genre. But after multiple listens, it becomes apparent that this is more than just another pagan metal album.

Like just about everything in the genre, the mood is supposed to be epic. Unlike a lot of the genre, it's actually successful at being epic, without being cheesy. The synths rarely draw too much attention to themselves, but even when they do they sound good. The compositional style is excellent as well. While there are some themes that will be repeated, they are played differently each time. I don't think it's fair to say that are any verses or repeated choruses (although with lyrics in Ukrainian it's hard to tell). On top of that, the audible bass and sheer variety of riffing and vocal styles means they're coloring with a box of 64 crayons instead of your typical 8.

Because there is so much variety within the songs, while still maintaining cohesive themes, they make sense and don't get boring. In other words, it's a really good album. It features all the genre cliches prominently, but doesn't allow itself to be shackled by them.

The Verdict: If you like pagan metal, chances are you'll like Schwarzpfad. If you don't like pagan metal, this might be the album that will change your mind. I give it 4.5 out of 5 stars.


  1. Wow, this is the second album from that list to get a 4.5 score from you.

    I'm feeling pretty good about that.

  2. I got this and the Gernotshagen one at the same time, and the Gernotshagen was much more immediate. (Like I said, it was almost like the Rocky theme in its accessibility and mood, in some places.) As I suggested, the value of this one wasn't immediately apparent to me. It took several listens before these things started popping out at me, and it just got better. If I would have rushed the review and given it fewer listens, it would have been a lower score. I fully appreciate it now.

  3. Well I'm glad it grew on you, then, and it's probably best that you waited. I often have a habit of reviewing things too quickly, and I later find that my feelings about an album have changed enough that I'll wish I had waited.

    Gernotshagen's newest did indeed seem very easy to pick up and enjoy.

    I didn't really notice the initial inaccessibility you mentioned about this record, but maybe that's just because I was a fan before I heard this so I already knew what to expect.

  4. I wouldn't say it was initially inaccessible. Its virtues just aren't as immediately apparent. At first I liked it, but I didn't love it. It took a few listens for that.

  5. Ah, ok. I guess I misinterpreted your statement.