If pomp rock behemoths Kansas were starting out today, there’s just a sliver of a chance that they might sound like Bostonians Dzö-nga… or maybe more accurately, these denizens of Massachusetts really do sound like the closest thing black metal has yet held up in the image of the old Gods of progressive seventies rock.
In the world of Sentinel Daily, of course, this is nothing but a good thing. As the violins soar above Cryvas‘ impassioned roar on opener The Song of Hiawatha unprompted ‘flashbacks’ of Robbie Steinhardt in corpse paint playing People of the South Wind will force their way into your brain, and tha’s not as unwelcome an image as you might think. Not that this is in anmy way a retro proposition, you understand – Dzö-nga are a full-bore, fully formed black metal band and no mistake – but there’s an undeniable classiness and maturity of purpose that does seem to shoot a link to the past.
Not least, possibly because Thunder in the Mountains is a re-working of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow‘s American epic poem The Song of Hiawatha, which attempted to distil the oral folklore of the Ojibwe people of North America. Kansas were more concerned with the Cheyenne and Kaw nations, but that’s a link tenuous enough for this writer to hang a theory on, oh yes…
But back to the music. It’s uniformly excellent, especially coruscatingly anthemic tracks like Flames in the Sky, where Cryvas’ wounded howl is augmented by Grushenka Ødegård, whose fine grasp of ethereal melody entwines itself in Cryvas’ more prosaic utterances with beguiling results. At times the band threatens to topple over the edge into oblivion – the never-know-when-to-stop-madness of Bal Sagoth sometimes comes to mind – but the vast portion of TitM is supremely well structured, majestically impressive folk-tinged black metal straight out of the top draw.
Sentinel Daily favourite Raphael Weinroth-Brown makes an appearance on the superb Starlight, Moonlight, Firelight, but for the most part this is Cryvas’ baby and to say he’s done a fine job would be an act of criminal understatement. Pretty much every page of the black metal playbook is covered here, but nothing sounds forced, and nothing gives the listener any sense that the music here might in any way be contrived. Straight from the heart, this is truly soulful black metal that you need to get into your ears as soon as possible.
Thunder in the Mountains is out on February 7th.