03 May 2021 - Gene
Atmospheric Black Metal, Blackgaze, Kraut Rock, Indie | Self-Released | Release date: 10 May 2021
Arising from relative anonymity to assail the underground
Hailing from what you might think of as a musically uncomplicated Slovenian Province – by luxury of hapinstance – Zorya presents a slight confluence of ideas, distilled unironically into a stirring spiritual concoction. Graduating from the one-man band of the first EP to a more collected and cool duo, Zorya appears to be coming into their own as they offer aural tithe to the spirits of the natural realm in the form – fortunately for us – of some really kickass rock. Now, if you’re a simpleton like me and approach this expecting some sort of typical Black Metal outing of the Norwegian school you might be surprised, and if you don’t you still might be surprised. The aura of this outing (if one must stoop to relativism) comes across as somewhere between An Autumn For Crippled Children and Deafheaven, with a nod to the darkly pastoral interludes of Agalloch. Not bad company to keep. This is music rooted in blackened-Shoegaze with an Indie flare, a sound which attempts to balance the ferocious inner dialogue between peace and turmoil with the folklore of its heritage: the Spirits of the earth and stars, the natural poetry of the Adriatic, the verdant Beech and Fir and frost-dipped Taiga, and onward from there, across borders, nodding North, perhaps, to the progressive tendencies of neighboring Austria, and, in general, immersed in the new wave of open-ended experimental music and Extreme Metal; setting a course to revive and reinterpret its own natural history.
“Flies Without The Light” kicks the album off with a sweet pastoral guitar refrain, steady drums punctuated by delicate cymbal-work and a droning chant. Suddenly, serenity is pierced by Jan’s guttural scream straight from the nethers of the solar plexis, but for precious moments only, and only twice during the track. It is a clever use of quiet/loud dynamics, imparting the notion of a prayer to the spiritgods of yore – an offering to power the ritual to follow. A similar guitar treatment follows on “Waterfall”, further on the upbeat, resonating with a kind of Garage Rock guitar sound; the growls coming more often this time around. The payoff, so to speak, comes on the excellent “Yarilo”, which gets off the ground even faster, features more agressive drumming and shouting, all the while keeping the same tempo as set, but for a quiet break midway that features a well-carried whispered scream. Finally, on “Nature” – probably the most interesting cut here – all that preceded seems to coalesce and intensify. The whispered screams make another welcome appearance, joined at last by Sara’s cleans, for that Nightwish touch. Jan’s best vocal performance is here and the addition of discernable lyrics injects insight – but once again for only moments before the cusp of revelation is snatched away. This time for good. For now.
At just shy of 23-minutes in length, this was an album that became an EP, but at least it does not fall into the mire of bad Black Metal production of the early days. However, much yet is left to be desired. The album seems to end just as it gets going and the fact that such a short album spends so much of its time in rumination of just a few progressions – à la Kraut – is less than ideal. It makes the project feel even shorter than it is and hints at a half-finished affair. But it’s hard to fault the artists at this point. We are checking-in rather early in their trajectory, clearly, and already we gleam hints of excellence. They are fleshing out their ideas gracefully and the aesthetic is certainly there, the talent is there, it is all so nearly there. As early attempts go, this is very good, indeed, and holds much promise.
Put Zorya on your radar as one to watch. Something tells me there are more dark spirituals yet to come. In the meantime, check out Primeval, coming to all platforms May 10, 2021.