Monday, March 11, 2013

Jarun - Wziemiozstąpienie (2012)

Based on the small cross-section of modern black metal bands that come across our doorstep, it would seem that there is no genre of metal more in flux than that. We all know the standard black metal sound; the tin can recording, completely raw, and sometime utterly unlistenable. But as the winds of change blow through, black metal is not immune to their power. Melodic elements, symphonic touches, folk influences, and even acoustic passages have all made their way under the black metal umbrella. The resulting evolutions have changed the way we listen to the music itself, and our expectations of where it goes from here. By adding in all of the above, Polish five piece Jarun have followed in the footsteps of bands like Dammerfarben and Ogen, in hopes of taking black metal out of the past, and catapulting it into the future.

The opening guitars of the title track, "Wziemiozstąpienie" are fast and anything but furious. The first thirty seconds may lead you to believe you are listening to something entire different than reality, perhaps even a folk rock album. But it is this versatility that forms the backbone of the album. Intermittent periods of softly plucked guitars help to offset some of the more bombastic black metal sections. The balance is an interesting one, diminished only slightly by a mix that may be leaning too much to the low end. the double kicks crash through your speakers like boulders, sometimes burying the guitars a layer or two too deep. Add in harsh vocals, and you have something over the top and destructive. With the flip of a switch, though, you are in a different place entirely. Rain falls and clean guitars are plucked and layered together on "Deszcz." While it only serves as a lead-in to the crushing first verse, it again reinforces the need for second and third dimensions. Those clean passages open the flood gates for wave after wave of distortion and lightning fast riffs, some of which are almost overwhelming in their weight. What you also have are tracks that are self contained, coming full circle in their own boundaries.

The aforementioned level issues are more prominent on "Prawdy Ulotne," where the bass and kick drums almost dominate the entire mix. While a bass heavy structure isn't necessarily a downside, there is a fine line to be walked. With the vocals muffled into that murky cloud, it leaves only the faint acoustic guitars to peak through and make a true impact. This isn't to say all is lost, however, as the band rebounds with some deft guitar work in the latter stages. For a quick respite, the breathtaking "Przebudzenie" is perhaps more intricate and enjoyable than Putumayo has ever put together, all done with a darker touch. It is a very stripped down effort as compared to the rest, but it becomes the perfect pallet cleanser at the midway point. Just as quickly as you found yourself soothed, you are ripped awake by the blast beats and screeching guitars of "Niech moje słowa będą ogniem," a track that sees the band achieving the balance that had eluded them thus far. Thanks to a refined piece of volume leveling, each separate layer can now be heard and digested together, rather than trying to pick them apart for clarity. It leaves the vocals now feeling strangely satisfying in all of their grit and tension.

At only three minutes, "Powrot" is one of the shorter offerings on the album. And much like the previous interlude, it provides a bridge from one section of the album to the next, through minimal distortion. If nothing else, it feels like the most well constructed effort on the album, and boasts what may be the best guitar and vocal performances to be had. It comes off more to the deathly side of the spectrum, rather than a blackened folk, a style that suits the band well. As is often the case, a shorter track is paired with the longest, in this case the seven minute "Zamiec." With the renewed contrast of clean and distorted sections, the band further their signature sound, and do it with a tremendous amount of confidence and strength. The alternating passages keep things feeling fresh, even when a guitar or bass line is repeated for a chunk at a time. And which each change of tempo comes another explosion to get your head moving along. But even more than that, the solo that fills out much of the bridge is a monster, and finally showcases some of the more intricate musicianship. The rains return once again, and a swaying pair of guitars takes you through "I znowu zima..." to your conclusion. The healthy dose of American blues scattered throughout the track is surprisingly, and welcomed.

The globalization of metal, as a genre, has led to many an advancement in sound, technology, and quality. So as we see countries pop up on the metal radar, we can only look forward to the next step. Poland seems to be leading the Eastern European metal scene, thanks to the work of bands like Jarun. Their work on this album shows that they are not imitators, not charlatans, but innovators looking for their own path. Sure, they embody a lot of what made black metal as popular as it is today. From their roots as a one man band, into the five piece rising stars they are today, he only constants are quality musicianship and a keen ear for marrying opposites. An extra bit of care at the soundboard and more time to gel together and become a solidified unit, and "Wziemiozstąpienie" is a victory just shy of a masterpiece.


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