White Ward - Debemur Morti (EP)

18 Jun 2021 - Thorsten

Avantgarde Black Metal | Debemur Morti | Release date: 25 Jun 2021

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The Ukrainian metal-extremists release an 18-minute-EP in honor of the 200th release on their own label, Debemur Morti Productions. Musically, it is a really brilliant homage to DMP, but visually it might just be the worst cover of the year. But - it makes you think!

To get this out of the way, yes the cover is really ugly in all its uncovered bluntness: the deer which was obviously hit by a car is lying in the pure white snow (combination one: innocent deer in pure snow) while one part of the car’s tire is lying across the animal’s behind (combination two: man-made car caused the visible blood). The idea of mankind killing nature is not the problem here (because it’s the simple truth) – the blunt force of the car is not only visible but nearly too much to bear. According to the band, the message behind the cover is exactly what they wanted to point out!

So, but now let’s focus on the music. The two tracks sprawling across 17 minutes and two 10” sides show the band performing on a similar level as back in 2019 with their highly-acclaimed third full-length Love Exchange Failure. The opening title track ”Debemur Morti” is nothing short of an elegy beginning with a beautiful saxophone melody by Dima Dudko but soon raging wildly at the hands of the mechanically precise rhythm section of bassist Andrii Pechatkin and drummer Evgen Karamushko. The track then makes another turn because of the brilliant clean vocals by guest singer Lars Nedland (from Borknagar and Solefald) who brings a totally different side to the band’s music spectre. This form of nearly classic metal is something new for the Ukrainians, but as one might expect it’s not enough for them as they then (after five minutes) give the song a total break, come back with a effective vocal sample, some heavy jazzy piano chords and jazzy drumming accompanied by Lars’ melancholic voice before the whole thing kicks in again.

The second track ”Embers” is much more straighforward in the sense that it focuses more on White Ward’s jazz noir side with pianist Mykola Lebed being the primary focus for the first half of the track before the band follows their black metal side and longings again. This might be one of the few things to say about the release – that there is still a minor lack between the jazz elements and the black metal parts, they are not really interwoven but more of sequelling and not complementing each other. However, one should note how difficult this feat is, as the often laid-back and “cool” side of jazz and the traumatic, cathartic black-metal elements do not really work well together. At the end of ”Embers” the band goes for this mixture by blending in some saxophone passages and ending the track with some very warm vibraphone parts before the last few seconds are nothing but the wind howling across the blood-soaked snow.

There might not be a better form of praising your label – the 200th Debemur Morti release is an EP with the same name opening with this nine-minute-monster bearing the same words, which by the way mean “We are death” and if we combine this with the cover shall probably imply that “we” (humans) bring death to all around us. The EP is another highlight in a discography already overflowing with great songs and miraculously homogeneous records. There might not be a better jazz-noir-black-metal-band focusing on the black metal side at the moment than these Ukrainians.