For this review TMW has brought together the thoughts of both Goat Wizard and Progcaveogier for a dual collaborative review because well one was not enough! Read on folks!
Finland’s Vargrav are fast becoming one of the most notable one man black metal projects in the globe. Led by mastermind V-Khaoz, Vargrav was born to bring credibility back to melodic, keyboard oriented black metal. Their sound is somewhat lo-fi, but also extremely atmospheric. One could say almost astral.
Layers of keyboards do most of the talking, but trebly guitars and distant drum mix add a lot to the soundscape as well. Cawing vocals are almost hidden under the layers in the mix and they serve merely as another instrument in the mix just.
At first everything in Vargrav may sound pretty unproduced and raw, but after a few listens it becomes quite clear indeed that every piece of the cocktail has been carefully planned, to set the atmospherics in the certain mindset. Listening to Vargrav is like watching satellite pictures of space. Satanic satellite pictures, to be exact. Timeless, cold, almost eerie and definitely majestetic.
The first Vargrav album Netherstorm was out in the first weeks of 2018 and the follow up is out only a little over a year later. It’s obvious that somebody has been productive in the batcave! Reign In Supreme Darkness, the important second album, is everything one could expect from Vargrav. And more. It has developed each element of the direction chosen a bit further, yet keeping the plot almost unchanged. Sound is even more cold and more distant than before, but the atmosphere is spot on perfect the way it is now.
A definite improvement to already well crafted past. There seems to be more melodies in the music too, but this is only making the compositions more memorable and majestic. The link to early Emperor is self-evident, but there is also the otherworldly quality of early Limbonic Art to be heard and the tendency to carefully planted details brings 1990’s Abigor to mind. When adding Tartaros to the list, one should have pretty solid picture in mind of what Reign In Supreme Darkness is about.
Yet, Vargrav has always been more than a replica of the past glories of others. There is a definite intention to write music for to this day and age present in everything. Compositions are just simply too carefully planned and detailed to serve only lukewarm purposes of nostalgia.
After Netherstorm was out, that certain mid-90’s melodic black metal thing has been coming back with a bang. It makes sense too, when you think of it. Some of the black metal fans are simply too young to remember, or to have personally experienced the times when Moon in the Scorpio, or In the Nightside Eclipse dropped and filled fans with awe. On the other hand, after Millenium melodic black metal became a pretty saturated scene with thousand second hand Dimmu Borgirs and Cradle of Filths taking a dump over the early creativity of the scene and the sound faded away and eventually died in solitude.
Now, 20 years after the days of glory for this particular phenomenon the world has still former melodic black metal fans slumbering in the tombs of mortages and family lives, only to raise their collective ears in wonder when their former favourite musical direction rears it’s stardust covered goat head again. The fact is that the time is right for this sound to return. Hordes are awaiting and Vargrav is riding the starlit sky in the forefront of triumphant return.
If you love the warm fuzzy feeling associated with something nostalgic then look no further than Vargrav from Finland. Sit back and relax while I talk about the bands release Reign in Supreme Darkness which is out now via Werewolf Records. Now if you are familiar with the band there are lots of comparisons to Emperor but setting these aside this album is downright magical.
The reason I sat so long on writing this review is due to the fact that this album grows on you, but in the best way possible. With each consecutive listen a new fragment of the mystery unveils itself enveloping the listener in a blanket of cosmic supremacy.
This is not just your mere copy of that classic 90s Symphonic Black Metal that we know and love but something unique yet familiar. Teeming with glorious riffs, fantastic melodies, and harrowing vocals, V-Khaoz has crafted an ethereal atmospheric sound that creeps into the being making it all together memorable and tangible. It is Lo-Fi yet at the same time it delivers on all levels.
There were moments while I was listening to this album that I truly got lost in the vastness of the music and I found myself looking back to when I first discovered the world of metal and what became a pivotal turning point. Again motioning back to that warm fuzzy feeling we all know and love. This will no doubt cater to old and new fans of the genre and it is great that there are still artists out there who seek to pay homage to this sound.
Reign in Supreme Darkness has already snagged a spot in my top albums so far this year and anyone who enjoys Black Metal needs to listen to this. It is a definite treat and one that I am sure will make its way into your rotation.