For a Ukrainian black metal band writing in their native tongue, deriving their name and lyrical themes from distant mountains and rivers of which I’m unaware, Stryvigor is remarkably accessible. Forgotten by Ages, their debut album, is atmospheric black metal laced with memorable riffs, clearly influenced by fellow compatriots such as Drudkh and Khors. It’s like being set upon by distant mountain wolves while the stars twinkle overhead. Though its accessibility undercuts its kvlt black metal origins, there is no denying these Ukrainians charmed me with this ode to their native Carpathian mountains, brimming with beautiful synths and hooky guitar lines.
Where compatriots such as Drudkh and Nokturnal Mortum often aim to demonstrate distance and estrangement with protracted tracks, Stryvigor‘s are short and sweet. Only “To Heroes” exceeds five minutes, the entire record wrapping up after a brief 33 minutes. All too often, bands become embroiled in their own ‘genius’ and write an excessively long record severely lacking a disciplined editor (I’m looking at you Metallica). Fortunately, Forgotten by Ages exercises necessary restraint: it beats, it captivates, it leaves. Though the album bears an instrumental introduction and conclusion, the other tracks go straight to the stellar riffing, and are all the better for it. This is particularly noticeable on highlights “Wings of Sorrow” and “Wherever the Stars…”, both of which immediately impact the listener with the drums and Khladogard’s excellent guitar work, but also beguile with the ethereal synths. To my ears, such tracks sound most similar to Khors, with a highly melodic approach to black metal.
Forgotten by Ages even wrings a little variety from their core melodic black metal style. The concluding two tracks, “To Heroes” and the instrumental title track, feature a cleaner, ‘purer’ guitar tone, something more akin to melo-death. After the initial riff on the former, this distinct guitar breaks down and acts as a refrain throughout the remainder of the song. Strangely, it actually works, and it’s my favorite example of the catchy riffcraft on the record. Through the integration of black metal with this cleaner guitar tone, these concluding tracks seem to black metal, what melodeath is to death metal. I’ll be interested to follow Stryvigor‘s future releases to hear if they capitalize on this variation on blackened tradition. However, although a good pair of tracks, they seem a little discordant in comparison to the first six.
Likewise, while the airy synths and memorable guitar lines are inter-woven well, the many concessions to accessibility undermine the potential ass-kicking of this record. Despite originating in black metal, a famously extreme metal sub-genre, Forgotten by Ages can sound a little toothless. There is a conspicuous absence of bass in the mix, which would aid the impact of the short and punchy tracks. Similarly, even on the first six tracks with their more blackened roots, the guitar tone could be more aggressive, sounding like the characteristic buzz saws or angry wasps. That said, if it was Stryvigor‘s intention to pay homage to their mystical land, not to bludgeon Christians or to indulge themselves in a sacrificial goat or two, then the production is understandable, if not beneficial for the sound of their music.
These fine Ukrainian gentlemen have demonstrated great maturity for a first outing. Their song-writing is concise and avoids pretentious meandering, and they even expand beyond their core sound at the record’s conclusion, paving the way for future developments. Though lacking the extreme aggression, desolation or Satan worship one typically finds in black metal, I’ll certainly be keeping a weathered eye on Stryvigor‘s horizon.