Ukrainian black metal? With doom and viking elements? By a one man band? Sounds good to me! While Steel Druhm must sheepishly admit to being late to the Raventale party, now that I’m here, I’m a happy fucking camper indeed. That’s because one Astaroth Merc has single-handedly spewed out a very entertaining and enjoyable platter of contemplative, brooding, atmospheric and doomy black metal on his fifth album, Bringer of Heartsore. So good is the material here, I’m willing to overlook that awful, AWFUL album title (plus, I’m assuming English is like his fifth language so mistakes will be made). So what will a listener be treated to on a Raventale album? A composite of Moonsorrow, Helrunar and SIG:AR:TYR (minus the folk acoustics). That means big, sweeping musical pieces, alternatively epic, melancholy and brutal. Sometimes hollow like a dark, empty void, other times ice-cold like Nordic winters, Astaroth weaves many a mood over this relatively short but sweet blackened sojourn. I find myself impressed enough to begin immediate excavation of their back catalog for more rich doomy, blackened goodness. To decide if you might feel the same, read all the fine words below, in order.
With opener “Anything is Void,” Raventale gets the ball rolling well. It’s all smooth, melodic trem picking, mid-paced, at times plodding tempos, gruff croaks and gentle (i.e. not overused) keys. Its hypnotic in its repetition without becoming too shoegazey. Followup “Twilight, the Vernal Dusk” is the album standout and embodies all that Astaroth is best at. Again, its slow to mid-paced trem riffs and even sounds like a stripped down While Heaven Wept at times. It has a simple, trance-like charm and an understated epic vibe that I really dig (and a crackingly mournful solo at 4:15 too). “Breathing the Scent of Death” has the most MoonsorrowÂ influence and a large-and-in-charge martial feeling. “The Last Afterglow” builds on those themes and keeps things rolling along admirably and features the album’s coolest riff. Although there are scattered blast beats (“These Days of Sorrow” winds down with a drawn out blast segment) and moments of aggression, this is far more a moody, doomy construct than a pummeling exercise in black brutality.
The guitar tone Astaroth wields is more in line with Celtic Frost sludge or doom than traditional blackened shrillness. Its low, heavy and droning. While there’s a lot of trem pluckery, there’s also a great deal of doom riffing and dirgery. The vocals are used somewhat sparingly and on some songs, they feel like an afterthought. They aren’t exceptional but are more than adequate, suitably raspy and at times, deathy. The drums have a good punch and an echoing effect that adds to the feeling of a vacuous void. The overall production is, in fact, very well done and much better than one might expect from such an obscure act.
While there are standouts here, Bringer of Heartsore works better as a whole. As it runs along, you get drawn into its moods and its ebb and flow. It has a very captivating way of making me zone out and drift along through the void with the music. While it isn’t reinventing anything or treading new ground, it has a certain simplistic magic that elevates it and makes it highly worthwhile.
While I can see some folks finding this a bit boring and unexceptional, there’s just something about it that speaks to me. It can be a bit samey at times and there could be more variation in tempos, but if given half a chance, this will grow on you bigtime. If you have a hankering for some gloomy, melodic and hypnotic black metal, you can do a lot worse than this Ukrainian export. Fans of Moonsorrow and similar bands should definitely try this out. I’m sure glad I found them. DOOM!!!!