Kroda is a pagan folk black metal band from Ukraine. They were formed in 2003 by Eisenslav and Viterzgir, both being active with other bands too. They released 3 full-length albums, as well as a couple of splits and live albums / compilations. The band played pagan black metal, using also folk instruments and ambient passages and all their albums were praised by reviewers. Now, 4 years after their last album “Fimbulvinter” and a couple of years after “Falcon Among The Cliffs” EP and “Ghosts of Birds” mini-DVD, they return with their fourth full-length “Schwarzpfad”, but Viterzgir (who was also contributing in compositions and artwork design since the beginning) left Kroda in 2010! You can check his new folk metal band Viter.
Just by seeing “Schwarzpfad’s” cover, one can notice that the artwork is very different. The characteristic colorful nature photos of their previous albums are absent. Now everything is much darker, almost black & white and all photos in the booklet are of night landscapes, shot by Eisenslav. Well, that’s for sure the biggest difference I can find compared to their previous albums. If I didn’t know, I wouldn’t understand Viterzgir’s absence at first, since the basic elements of their music are pretty much the same! The band continues to mix black metal and folk music the same way they always did. Unlike many bands of the genre, they prefer to “separate” these genres: so there are parts of pure pagan black metal, acoustic parts of folk / ambient music and parts where the borders are lost and they combine synths, folk instruments and black metal. Of course there are new elements and a different approach in their music, but it still has the distinctive Kroda sound that the band likes to call “HelCarpathian Black Metal”.
Eisenslav composed all music, sang all vocals and played most instruments, with the help of session members. The album contains 4 typical 10-minute Kroda songs, as well as a closing ambient track, so its total duration is over 50 minutes. After a more careful listening, I can notice that the quality of their folk music isn’t the same anymore and the orchestrations seem more simple. Their sound is generally raw, but with a much improved production that allows all instruments to sound perfectly clear. I believe Eisenslav found a great balance in this album and he managed to give Kroda a more pagan black metal direction, less folk oriented, but much darker and melancholic. He mostly uses brutal vocals, as well as a few epic clean ones and his expressive screams sound so hateful and powerful… All of their pagan / nature inspired lyrics are in Ukrainian and you can find them, along with their English translations in the extended booklet. It’s a concept album in five parts (one for each song) and the story is about the thoughts and feelings of a wanderer, who freezes among the mountains in autumn-winter mid-season…
“Schwarzpfad” is for sure a great pagan metal album, not only for Kroda fans, but for everyone who likes this genre. Maybe the band lost something in the quality and uniqueness of its folk tunes, but it gained it back by the improvement of the guitar lines that have now the leading role. As always Kroda payed a lot of attention to the package and except for the amazing photos, the album comes in a luxurious digipak edition with partial UV-Lack printings and 20page booklet! It is released by Purity Through Fire, who also rereleased in 2010 the “Fünf Jahre Kulturkampf” compilation of the band in digipak version. You can visit the band’s site for more info.
Originally published on HeavyMetalCosmos