It appears we have another victim of the dreaded “December Release.” A period of the year that shows black in a reviewer’s vision. But lists need making and TYMHM articles need writing. No one has time to squat down and pinch out another review before the year comes to an end. But, this isn’t any ordinary release. It isn’t run-of-the-mill or disappointing, it isn’t pathetic or a waste of time. Hell, it isn’t even good. It’s fucking great. And, even if I was unable to spare a few hours to write an official review, it would still be a 2017 Things You Might Have Missed. This isn’t one you ignore or skip over. Shit, this is one that can’t be ignored. This, my friends, is Jarun‘s Sporysz.
I’m sure many of you (including myself) have never heard of these Polish progressive black metallers. But, they’ve been around for close to a decade, having already released two outstanding independent records. And, now, with a new bassist, guitarist, and vocalist, as well as inclusion into the webs of Arachnophobia Records (who think releasing an album three days before Christmas is a good idea), Jarun is on a mission to top their unbelievable 2015 release, Pod niebem utkanym z popiołu. No small feat, let me tell ya.
The greatest contribution Sporysz makes to the Jarun catalog is its exceptional bass, drum, and clean vocal work. Two of three components the band never truly capitalized on in previous releases (the one they’ve always been great with is the drums). Dawid Wierzbicki’s bass, in particular, is the unsung hero of Sporysz. The title-track opener gets things moving with heavy bass leads that bait accompaniment by some clean guitars and screaming rasps. Throughout the song, the bass never gives up the reins and the Enslaved-like black metal progressions build to a heavy crunch—tenderizing your insides into flattened chops. Follow-up track “Powidoki” entertains many of the same qualities as “Sporysz” but, this time, it tosses in soaring Viking-like vocals and a beautiful clean guitar lick that ruptures into more Enslaved-meets-Ihsahn-isms. But, they make every moment of its captivating conclusion their own as they rattle away on the drums like a fucking machine gun.
This is only the beginning of the bass and drum work on the album. The greatest moments for Wierzbicki and drummer Pazuzu come in the two closing numbers, “Sny jak ziemia, sny jak rzeka” and “Malowany ogień.” The former takes a simple riff and expands on it for six straight minutes. First, as a suppressed version of itself—punchy, poppy, yet easy on distortion, while the bass pops and glides along only as Steve DiGiorgio can—and, then, as an emotion-laden chug. As the atmosphere begins to swim around you, the tension snaps back to calmer moments before yanking tight once more. Building, climbing, bludgeoning, repeating—this song is a dark, passionate journey through the Plains of Pain. A journey that is equal in strength to the folky, beautiful, intense, and riveting “Wichry.” Both, however, don’t stand a chance against closer “Malowany ogień.”
While there are so many great songs from this Polish quintet, “Malowany ogień” is one of the best examples of progression from Jarun (or any black metal band, for that matter). It takes everything achieved on “Sny jak ziemia, sny jak rzeka” and magnifies it. The song is aggressive and melodic, stacking each stone upon its structure, not only for aesthetics but also for strength. As the song ascends to it’s (and the album’s) climax, the top layer is laid in the form of a shiny crown of blaring trumpets. Yup, I said trumpets. And, goddammit, does it work.
For all the love and praise I have for this album, I have to admit that I’m still partial to Pod niebem utkanym z popiołu. While the bass and drum work on Sporysz is even better than it was on Wziemiozstąpienie, Sporysz is lacking the continuity and unbeatable acoustic guitar segments of the sophomore release. That said, this is an impressive continuation of what Jarun have already achieved. Not to mention, the deeper exploration of their style. Sporysz is a great album and one that would be foolish to miss out on. Thank goodness there’s enough time to add it to my 2017 list.