On Saturday, December 23, The Best Ukrainian Metal Act awards ceremony took place for the 5th time, celebrating this year’s best metal releases, video clips, and bands. The winner of the main award "Best Metal Band", chosen by the audience’s vote, became the Vinnytsia-based post-hardcore act Space of Variations, which previously received the same award in 2015. As for the categories "Best Metal Video" and "Best Metal Album", determined by the jury members, there were chosen the video clip "Party на Прикарпатті" of the Ivano-Frankivsk’s band Karna and the LP "Veruty" of the Kharkiv-based black metallers Nokturnal Mortum. Noizr Zine’s editor was one of the experts of The Best Ukrainian Metal Act, who selected 5 best metal albums of the year. Further in the article, you will learn about 5 releases chosen for BUMA and the new records not included in this shortlist.
From 125 to 81 releases
This year, the organizers of The Best Ukrainian Metal Act made it much easier for the jury by selecting into the long list only those albums which could be checked out in good quality on YouTube, Bandcamp, SoundCloud, Google Play Music or other streaming services. So, if the most part of last year’s 125 releases were frankly weak works, uploaded exclusively on the Russian social media VKontakte, then among this year’s 81 records, the worst of them could be counted on fingers.
Despite the fact that the total number of albums has decreased, and their quality has improved, the problem of the monotony of the presented works still remains relevant. Because of this, we will only talk about those releases that seemed interesting to us and start, of course, with the top five of them.
5 albums for BUMA
- Nokturnal Mortum "Істина"
- White Ward "Futility Report"
- Ignea "The Sign Of Faith"
- Velikhan "Oh Lord!"
- Sanatana "Brahma"
"Veruty" by Nokturnal Mortum — for the new classics.
Nokturnal Mortum is a cult band, thanks to which the Ukrainian metal, in particular black metal, is known far beyond our country. Each of their albums causes a stir in the metal community, which, in fact, is reflected on the commercial success of the band — for example, on the first day of "Verity" release, it became a bestseller on Bandcamp among musical novelties of all genres.
It’s important to note that the LP success and quality is due to the results of teamwork, because Nokturnal Mortum is, of course, an example of how the musicians should collectively bring their creative ideas into life. In addition to the 5 band members, 7 session performers, 4 sound engineers, several artists and designers, etc. have also worked on "Verity". Everything was recorded in several studios in different cities, and after engineering, it was mixed and mastered at the Priory Recording Studios in the UK. After the work done, the final result amazes and catches from the first seconds of listening — the sound, typical for the genre, but solid and loud, the music palette is diverse and rich due to the use of recorded folk instruments and skillfully played basic musical instruments without any monotonous parts. An excellent rhythm section, catchy riffs, melodic guitar solos and wonderful vocals, where the only one multi-voice part from the song "З Чортом За Пазухою" will lead you into a state of aesthetic pleasure. It’s also worth noting the lyrics of the album, which, using vivid and persistent images from folklore, echoes with the modern realities of Ukraine.
With their new record, Nokturnal Mortum again raised the bar for themselves and for other groups. This wonderful work has proved once again that the band is able to surprise both fans who are sure that the previous album "The Voice of Steel" will be impossible to surpass, and attract the attention of a large number of music lovers around the world. Given such a scrupulous approach to the creation of "Verity", there is a certainty that the best work of Nokturnal Mortum is still ahead and, perhaps, it will become the already announced "Оберіг".
"Futility Report" by White Ward — for the musicality and pushing of genre boundaries.
After a series of demos and EPs, later released as a compilation in 2016, the Odesa-based metal act White Ward presented their debut album "Futility Report" this spring. As in the case of Nokturnal Mortum, this release became known far beyond Ukraine and gained positive criticism from such mastodons of music journalism as Angry Metal Guy and Metal Injection.
In fact, the feature to use the saxophone in black metal is far from new — at least, last year's "Door 218" by Balance Interruption comes to mind. However, this instrument sounds incredibly harmoniously in White Ward’s music, even when it’s supported by super-fast drums and guitars or harsh vocals. No wonder, that in the comment section you can find such a characteristic as "refreshing" — indeed, this record literally pulls out the listener from the stagnant swamp of the identic releases.
Nevertheless, while giving "Futility Report" an honorable second place in this shortlist, I would like that such references for "renewal" and "fresh approach" could be attributed to the whole work, without highlighting its individual components. In some places, the album sags a little in repetitive parts and even when always gorgeous saxophone gets in, it doesn’t help to distract from the thought, for example, about monotonous bass in "Rain As Cure" or keyboards in "Stillborn Knowledge".
But the aforementioned remarks are only trifles, in comparison with the undoubted merits of the LP — performance skillfulness, quality of the recording and good teamwork of the band members. "Futility Report" should be checked out without fail, as this release will be interesting to the listener not only due to an atypical mix of genres but also because of perfectly recorded and played music.
"The Sign Of Faith" by Ignea — for melodics, musicality, and distinctness.
It would be wrong not to mention this debut album from Kyiv-based act Ignea, which LP is a vivid representative of symphonic, progressive and oriental metal. "The Sign of Faith" is an extraordinarily melodic release with an extensive musical palette, including orchestral parts, skillful performance and, of course, beautiful clean vocals performed by Helle Bogdanova, who also handles harsh vocal parts on the record.
In addition to the oriental motifs, which create such an attractive melody of the album, the undoubted outstanding feature of the LP is Helle's clean vocals. In separate tracks, the sound engineer Max Morton, by setting together several voice tracks, creates on "The Sign of Faith" a remarkably harmonious sound that plunges you during the listening into a state of light trance and appeasement — a similar emotional response I usually feel while listening to harmonies of the albums of TesseracT or Katatonia. As for the harsh vocals, their more aggressive and rough performances by Evgeny Zhitnyuk in such compositions as "Petrichor" and "Leviathan" (cover on Ultra Sheriff) I liked much more. It seems to me that the vocal duet of Zhitnyuk and Bogdanova, performing extreme and clean vocals respectively, would make the album more contrast and, therefore, more interesting.
It was completely justified to record the joint track "Petrichor" with one of the pioneers of the oriental metal, co-founder of Orphaned Land — a musician and producer Yossi Sassi. This collaboration gave the album a beautiful and melodic bouzouki part and a skillful guitar solo performed by an Israeli musician who perfectly complemented Bogdanova's clean vocals and sharply contrasting Zhitnyuk's harsh, which together made the song one of the best on this release.
In general, if you are a fan of heavy music with oriental motives, then this release will enter your personal list of favorites of the outgoing year. The band, guest performers and sound engineer have done an excellent job — the music of the release is well played, recorded, and mixed, it abounds with skilful and melodic parts, so you really enjoy listening. The only point aforementioned, I would add more aggressive harsh performed by Evgeny Zhitnyuk, and also look at the sound engineers of the above-mentioned acts TesseracT and Katatonia, sending the material to them for mastering.
"Oh Lord!" by Velikhan — for a promising debut.
Thanks to his portfolio of producer and sound engineer, the name of Sergey 'Knob' Lubinsky every year becomes more and more closer to the synonymous of quality. Therefore, seeing him as part of the newly formed Kyiv-based deathcore act Velikhan, it was possible to count in advance at least the great sound of their debut record. The EP "Oh Lord!" became the first release of the band formed by guitarist Alexei Sidorenko (MegamasS), drummer Andrey Litvinenko (Psionic Arc), participant of the show "The Voice of Ukraine" young vocalist Nikita Obushenko and the previously mentioned bass player Lubinsky (founder of TOL and Revet Sound Studios).
For their 4-track EP, the musicians chose, probably, one of the most entertaining openers that you had to hear — the first track "Akua" captures you from the very first seconds due to its epic beginning. While listening to it, you imagine yourself as a spectator, waiting for a huge musical spectacle which will burst out on a grand stage, and where Obushenko, like a real entertainer, prepares you to the proper perception of the release. This track has an excellent groove with a catchy main riff and interesting passages from pure pathetic-sounding vocals to the deathcore growl. The next three tracks are noticeably inferior to such a powerful beginning, although they have certain undoubtedly good moments.
What markedly spoiled the impression of the release is that despite the declared "solid and diverse musical material, which mixes a lot of genres and moods: from the gloominess of the viscous metal to the hip-hop aesthetics", in "Oh Lord!" still dominate the classic core/nu-metal musical parts with their typical breakdowns and vocal style with monotonous flows. For my liking, the album would be much better if there would be more metal elements, for example, interesting melodic guitar and drum solos or at least a similar epic parts which were in "Akua". Also, with such a spectacular beginning, I also wanted to hear the relevant great final track, but instead of it, you listen to a very boring "Spins", almost entirely consisting of dissonances, from which you start to tire at once as soon as they get in.
Nevertheless, despite the aforementioned criticism, "Oh Lord!" is strongly recommended to the deathcore fans, who probably, even without our advice, already appreciated this release in a dignified manner. In this EP, you can see the spirit of teamwork and encouraging attempts to create catchy energetic music that will not leave the listener indifferent. I hope that in the future Velikhan will not restrain themselves within the limits of several subgenres and will create more experimental and diverse music for their next records.
"Brahma" by Sanatana — for the expansion of musical and cultural horizons.
Sanatana is a new project created by musician Yuriy 'Jurgis' Kapinus, known as a member of Khors and Nokturnal Mortum, and his wife Mariya 'Maha Shakti' Kapinus, who handles vocals, lyrics, and keyboards.
Probably, such a collocation as "Vedic Metal" is the last thing that comes to mind when you think about one of the leading representatives of the Kharkiv’s black metal school. Nevertheless, in 2015, Yuriy created a group that combines the speed and severity of black metal with the melodics and philosophy of Indian culture. In 2017, Sanatana presented several releases — the compilation "Brahmavidya" and two full-length albums "Brahma" and "Vidya".
"Brahma" is a melodic well-recorded and mixed release, full of epic orchestrations and beautiful guitar parts. One of its main virtues is the vocal of Kapinus, who performs all parts in the folk style and sings in Ukrainian, making it amazingly. In addition, the album has features with oriental flavor — folk wind and percussion instruments, typical singing, etc.
Judging by the reaction in the network, Sanatana’s releases were not warmly received by music lovers. Perhaps the reason for this is that Yuriy's new project differs markedly both in terms of the thematic content and the musical component of his main bands. Despite this, with this Sanatana, Kapinus showed how talented he is both as a composer and as a musician, since he performs most of the parts (vocals, guitars, percussion) on albums, including "Brahma", by himself.
Do not miss also
Since there were three black metal albums in our shortlist, we'll start with other records from this genre. This year, there were a lot of good albums from Ukrainian black metallers — we'll tell you more about them in our upcoming thematic material, but for now, we advise you to listen to these novelties:
Brutal death metal:
Embrace Of Silence — "Where Darkness Swallows The Sun" на Deezer
Read also: Editor's choice. 5 albums for BUMA-2016