Thursday, November 6, 2008

Album Review: Kamaedzitca - Пяруне

Kamaedzitca - Пяруне

Artist: Kamaedzitca (Belarus)
Album Title: Пяруне (Pyarune)
Record Label: Strong Music (Belarus)
Released: 2008 (March)

Belarus is another one of those beautiful Eastern European countries that I will probably never get to see with my own eyes, yet I can appreciate some of its beauty through the influence it has on the pagan metal bands it inspires. Unfortunately, there don't seem to be a lot of metal bands in Belarus. While Ukraine, Poland, and especially Russia seem to be bursting at the seams with pagan/folk metal bands, their neighbor has only managed to produce a handful, at least that are known to me. The first of these with which I became familiar is Kamaedzitca, from the capital city of Minsk. Their 2004 debut CD, Дзецi лесу, was a very decent pagan metal album that mixes folk with a style of metal that is close to death metal, though it contains clean vocals in addition to the deep growls. Kamaedzitca seemed to disappear for the next few years, leaving many of us to wonder if they'd gone the way of so many pagan metal bands that release a promising, obscure debut and then fade away completely.

Then, almost out of nowhere, their sophmore full-length Пяруне appeared, though it has only managed to trickle into U.S. distros within the last few months. Fortunately, the band has not only managed to not disappear, they have returned stronger than before, with an album that might not reach the lofty heights of the latest Arkona or Moonsorrow releases but is worth looking into for fans of this genre.

Let's get the bad out of the way first. The intro and outro to this album are both very boring. There may be some purpose to beginning the album with the world's most minimalistic 3-minute flute solo and ending with an equally uninspired drum solo (mercifully only 1 1/2 minutes), but to these ears it just makes the first and last moments of the album crawl by. In all, 6 tracks out of the 14 are either instrumentals or atmospheric pieces rather than songs, so we're left with 8 actual songs, and they range from between 2:41 to just under 6 minutes each. Not a whole lot of music here, but certainly enough to chew on.

After the unfortunate opening flute solo, the first actual song on the CD, Колазварот (which I'm 99% sure is the Belarusian word for "sunwheel"), kicks off promisingly, sounding like classic Kamaedzitca but with a hefty dose of Estonian greats Metsatöll in the mix. Clean vocals and folk instruments abound on this album, making it sound much more varied and colorful than the debut album. But fans of the crunchy guitars and growls of Дзецi лесу should not fret, as they have not done away with that part of their sound. Variety is the name of the game here; from one song to the next, the atmosphere and dynamics change. There are very folky and celebratory-sounding tracks like Як на горцы ля ракі…, and then very aggressive songs like Волi герояў подых бязмежнасцi, which immediately follows it. The former track contains mostly clean vocals, while the latter track contains death metal growls. You've also got У вякi вякоў!, with its RAC-ish shouts of "Slava!" and its fast rhythm, and the acoustic track Блуканне ведагоны. The most beautiful song on the album is the mostly-instrumental Водар забыцця, which features a beautiful flute solo and an even more beautiful, mournful guitar solo, along with some nice clean vocals towards the end.

Production can be hit-or-miss with obscure pagan metal bands from former Soviet republics, but fortunately this is not the case with Пяруне. The sound is full and has plenty of punch, and the instruments are all well-recorded. This is as good a production job as I have heard on a pagan metal album, I think. The players are all great, especially considering the variety in playing and singing styles needed. I'm very impressed with the drumming of Viedyaslav Liha; it's a shame that he has since parted ways with the band. Folk musical instruments like flute and bagpipes are well-played and recorded.

I think that some listeners will feel that Пяруне is lacking in content and contains too much filler, but I think most of the interludes are appropriate and set a deliberate pace for the album. I do wish that there were more songs, or that some of the songs were longer, but what is here is very, very good. Because the album is so eclectic, you don't ever really have time to get tired of a certain style before they've moved onto another one.

Fans of folky but serious pagan metal bands such as the great Arkona or Temnozor will probably enjoy Пяруне. Kamaedzitca has a unique enough sound that it would be difficult to confuse them with any other band in the scene. Those who are familiar with the band's debut but didn't enjoy it enough to check out Пяруне should give this new album a chance, as the band has definitely matured and improved since their already promising first album. I remember thinking after I bought Дзецi лесу that the band had potential to become one of the better bands in the scene, given a little more experience, and, indeed, Пяруне confirms my suspicion. It's definitely worth checking out for fans of Slavic pagan metal, and it stands comfortably among the better pagan metal releases of 2008.

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