Pogavranjen - Jedva čekam da nikad ne umremI don’t often get a chance to write about Croatian metal bands or, to be exact, I don’t often feel like writing about Croatian metal bands. There’s barely anything to call a “metal scene” in my homeland, with most acts birthed alone and lonely into a generic and photocopied existence, only to disappear in a flash of insignificance. Suffice to say that during the last 25 odd years since the country’s declaration of independence, there were only a few bands worth mentioning in the same breath with their international stylistic brethren (Ashes You Leave, Umor, Death of Folk, Infernal Tenebra). Imagine my elation, then, when something as good as Pogavranjen’s third LP, Jedva čekam da nikad ne umrem,1 came along. Curiously composed and competently played avant-garde black metal that is not merely the fruit of derivative rehashing? Yes, please!

A berserking, space-and-psych-rock-gone-free-improv short called “Keres” opens the ceremonies and blossoms with the sort of uninhibited chaos that could only have been born out of a sense of inert rage and futile rebellion. Yet, this is only a diversion, a musical misnomer. Suddenly, the pandemonium subsides and gives way to introverted musings imbued with solemn and brooding passages. The music is now repetitive and droning, propelled by circling, polyrhythmic drumming. Whirlwinds of clean guitars and an infinitude of abstract electronic effects and synths create a constantly shifting, sinister tapestry, while negative spaces are filled with layered vocals that narrate lyrics with thespian poignancy. It’s obvious now: with their desolate and bleak sides even more accentuated, Pogavranjen have stepped out of the shade of black metal that covered their earlier releases and created a new world for themselves. A blessing and a curse.

But Pogavranjen’s downtempo world is not a completely original creation. Notes, harmonies, and structures are haunted by ideas of Virus, Ved Buens Ende, Manes, and Dødheimsgard. Fractured avant-garde tendencies like those cherished by Chaos Echœs linger in the mist. The band’s sonic palette tainted. It doesn’t matter; the songs suck you in, permeate your thoughts and infect you with the mantric nature of their flow. It’s a rather short trip, clocking at 45 minutes divided into five lengthy cuts that all feel similar. Intentionally so, one might think. Because as the music spirals a constant awareness persists: that the ground might disappear from beneath your feet at any moment. Unfortunately, this sense of dreariness and anxiety can become tiresome and is amplified through repeated listens as the tunes exhibit a tendency to meld into one another, blurring the lines between compositions and projecting a picture of the album into a formless but sharp blob.

Unicorn Raven

Judging by the lyrics and song titles, that might even be the intended effect. Just as the music itself is structured – discordant yet somehow harmonious and continuous – the themes and lyrics touch upon different religions, from Zoroastrianism to Judaism, but are then unified by a single encompassing idea of death, life, and rebirth. This is especially evident in the two central pieces, “Parahaoma” and “Xolotl,” that are also the most diverse and interesting songs featuring subtly shifting tempos and textures, appearing and disappearing rhythms and tremolos, and even touches of trumpets and slick jazzy breaks. On the other hand, the closing “Olam Ha-Ba” acts as an antipode of sorts, sounding almost cheery while carried by post-rock riffs and a meditative mood that dissolves and fades into abstractions as the song and album end. If at times the record does dwindle and come dangerously close to inciting boredom, as a whole it is salvaged by the fine musicianship, especially from drummer Stanislav Muškinja and guitarists Matej Pećar, Denis Balaban, and Niko Potočnjak (Seven That Spells, Jastreb). All the while, the crisp, involving production and mastering underline how elegantly crafted this record is.

Jedva čekam da nikad ne umrem shows a band/project that’s come a long way from their beginnings in 2008. While it might not live up to the promised peaks of experimentation and avant-garde mentioned in their promo blurbs, it’s still very much worth listening. It might just be the best metal thing you’ll hear from Croatia in quite a while.

Rating: Good!
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: FLAC 16-bit
Label: Arachnophobia Records
Websites: pogavranjenband.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/Pogavranjen
Releases Worldwide: February 15th, 2016

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  1. Looking Forward to Never Dying
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  • Diego Molero

    So… That thing in the photo is called an unibird or what?

    • Monsterth Goatom

      More like an Angry Olaf Bird.

      • Ivan Lovrenčić

        Unibird with Jorn mustaches. Epic UniJorniBird? T__T

      • AngryMetalBird

        ahh – good old uncle Olaf…

    • Roquentin

      The name of the band is a made-up word that roughly translates to “became (possessed by) a raven.” So, you see, it’s actually a uniraven! *thunderclap*

      • Martin Mašić

        It’d be nice if it’d been called Povranjen; then you’d be able to call it Unicrow!

      • Diego Molero

        That is a very cool name then! Very interesting, now I am truly sold with this band.

      • Martin Knap

        gavran is a raven. I’m trying to think about a Czech equivalent of what they did with the word raven and it’s pretty weird…

  • Tremens

    This is actually fucking excellent.

    • Excentric_13073

      I’m thinking this is actually very good to excellent, as well. The reviewer must have been a grumpy Croatian when he wrote it.

  • Martin Knap

    Oh yeah baby.

  • Wasn’t really sold on this until the 5 minute mark, but that’s a very cool tunnel they created there.

  • Wilhelm

    Great sound; very dark, comforting but unnerving and bizzare.

  • Kalsten

    Usually, the first thing I do when reading a review at AMG is to check which bands are refereed on the text. I have no idea about any of the ones mentioned in this one.

    • junkyhead

      Yes, that’s probably the best indicator, specially since the names are in bold. If you identify some of the stuff you go ahead eheh

  • Felchmeister666

    If I’d never heard Virus/VBE/In the Woods..before then I’d probably really like this.

    But I know those bands too well & therefore it’s hard to rate this album highly. It’s not in any way original and the interesting ‘bits’ are too few and far between..

  • Bart the Repairman

    I was in Croatia once, 15 years ago I guess. This country is so beautiful, sunny and colorful, that it feels almost inappropriate to have a metal scene there:)
    Also, best ice cream ever.

  • sir_c

    Whilst scrubbing through the tracks I hear many good things, but this definitely is a record one will need to invest some time into before it can be fully appreciated. I’ll put it on my list for the longer evenings, thanks a lot for bringing this to my attention!