I’ve gone and done it again. I snapped up a promo based on a band name that immediately set my mind racing towards visions of sci-fi-concept-album-mindfuckery, egged on by the reliably unconventional nature of I, Voidhanger releases. In the time between reserving Tchornobog‘s self-titled debut and actually listening to it, I was somewhat hopeful; this is apparently a continuation of the heady concept sole member Markov Soroka established with his Eternium project. While far from great, that band was undeniably ambitious, acting like a more death metal oriented Bal-Sagoth as a vehicle for its esoteric sci-fi story. Strangely, Tchornobog sounds very little like Eternium despite the conceptual overlap. This wouldn’t have been a bad thing – if only Tchornobog wasn’t such a tchornoslog.

Tchornobog is Soroka’s attempt at infiltrating the extreme metal sect occupied by the likes of Portal and Abyssal; a brew of cavernous, cacophonous death metal, dripping with fringe-style elements that blur genre lines. The latter band is probably the closest comparison to Tchornobog’s execution, as both craft a veritable whirlpool of chaotic guitar layering and varied drum rhythms. If there’s anything I’m overtly positive about here, it’s the atmosphere that these performances conjure. Tchornobog’s sound is so disgusting and viscous that you can practically feel it coating your eardrums, with ethereal, The Great Old Ones-like leads cropping up on occasion to provide a cosmic undercurrent. The production is absolutely not flawless – more on that later – but the record’s layered instrumentation certainly leaves a lasting impression. The ambient, squelching sound effects at the end of “The Vomiting Tchornobog,” which may or may not be recordings of the end result of a meal at Chipotle, certainly bolster a sense of disgust. Yuck.

While there are undoubtedly instances of innovation and memorable riff-craft to be found, scouring for these nuggets proved, for me at least, a draining and borderline miserable experience. Tchornobog consists of four numbers that clock in at a total of sixty-five minutes, and there’s not nearly enough substantial material to sustain these bloated compositions for even half their length. The tracks are constructed from a series of disjointed, overlong movements, each one sustaining one or two guitar patterns for several minutes, before Soroka determines that the riff horse in question is long dead and thoroughly beaten and cycles to the next passage. In most cases, this pattern shuffles towards a conclusion that loops back to the opening riff in a vain attempt at establishing some sort of identifiable song structure. I get the impression that Tchornobog probably thinks this gimmick is rather clever, but this payoff never feels earned or worth reaching in the first place.

The poor production only amplifies Tchornobog’s songwriting sins. This style of metal carries an oppressive weight that practically demands murky tones, and while the guitars are certainly subterranean sounding, they also lack personality and bite. This leads to a rather unique problem where, though the strings are undoubtedly given priority in the mix, they also sound strangely distant and detached. This is nothing compared to the bizarrely subdued drum mixing, though; apart from the cymbals, the drums are almost completely smothered when Tchornobog ramps up the intensity, a problem compounded by the obnoxious reverb applied to the one-note growls. Markov is most successful, then, when he pumps the breaks; there are suitably somber doom passages to be found, especially on “Non-Existence’s Warmth” which recalls Bohren & der Club of Gore through its melancholic utilization of a lone saxophone. Again, though, these sections lack the intended dramatic weight without any semblance of song structure to frame them.

I don’t outright hate Tchornobog, and I expect many listeners will be quite taken with it. There are legitimate instances of dark, unsettling beauty buried deep within the sheer density of this record, and diligent fans of avant-garde metal may register depth in what I perceive as an utter lack of attention to songwriting. To these ears, there’s roughly enough material here to sustain an EP, and stretching said material to three times its length has the same effect as blowing up a thumbnail image to full screen without adjusting the resolution. You can make out the scraps of potential if you squint, but most of it is lost to the tchornofog.

Rating: 1.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 256 kbps mp3
Label: I, Voidhanger Records
Websites: markovsoroka.bandcamp.com |  facebook.com/tchornobog
Releases Worldwide: July 21st, 2017

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  • Planex

    With art like that I’m disappointed that this wasn’t themed on a car breaking down in the bad part of the country.

  • drug_genosh

    Whoa-I had a completely different reaction that had me placing this album in at least top 5 for AOTY! Different strokes for different strokes but I picked up a blood incantation/suffering hour vibe at extended runtimes with more somber moments, like you’ve noted (and that artwork!!). Maybe im just a masochist, but I loved the drawn out pummeling and the reward that followed. When listening I just pictured being shackled to a desert floor on an alien planet, forced to endure the elements, day in & day out, plus what ever native life crossed your path, most probably hostile. Oh well! 4/4.5 in my eyes, anxiously waiting for a version that’s not on a “compact disc”, but still enjoyed a different perspective!

    • Carlos Marrickvillian

      Yeah I had a really positive reaction to it as well, though have only checked it out the one time.
      Pretty sure I’ll end up picking this one up.

  • madhare

    I don’t get how your mind works according to your opening paragraph. How does a reference to a Slavic dark deity (that’s how I understood the name) set your mind immediately racing “towards visions of sci-fi-concept-album-mindfuckery”?

    What’s sci-fi about an old deity? Or is it the Disney-connection? :D

    • Treble Yell

      Probably a fan of Shin Megami Tensei.

      • madhare

        I have n-o idea what that is. That’s how old I am. :D
        (In reference to the discussion on being old that’s going on elsewhere on this site.)

    • ssorg

      Reviewer obviously confused them with Latvian EDM powerhouse Technobog

  • Malhorne

    65m with such a production, that was harsh for you :(

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    Damn I had a listen to this the other day and quite enjoyed it

  • wayne the devil

    Super good album, I thought. Horrid digital recording. The shading and texture are lost in the muddled sounding cotton ball in the ear production. Songs loose there bounce and pop when the production is iffy….but a killer album none the less…..

    • drug_genosh

      hoping for a better vinyl master

  • Goldicot

    In my dramatically less credible opinion, this album is at minimum a 3.0. It is unfortunately no substitute to Abyssal, but is clearly better than the half-dozen Portal albums.

    Tangentially; it feels like critiques of song structure are usually just disagreements with the intent of the artist, especially in the case of Tchornobog where you have an artistic intent to be separate from any conventional song structure. It’s a criticism lodged firmly in unacceptance of a different mode of communication. (This is not intended to be directed at Eldritch Elitist specifically, just something that’s been coming up recently.)

    • Eldritch Elitist

      Excellent point, and there are many cases where I admire a band’s ability to succeed despite rebelling against the very notion of song structure. In this context, Tchornobog couldn’t cut it in my eyes – it’s difficult to sustain a song for twenty minutes, even moreso with the absence of a defined construction.

      • Tom Hardy

        Which makes it all the more subjective, which is part and parcel of this process.

    • Thatguy

      As the forum already knows, I found a lot to like in this album and will be returning to it. Yep, long, rather amorphous compositions, but a soundscape of beauty and terror.

      Sometimes a tightly constructed song is just the thing but not every song has to be like that. As young Tom writes below – aesthetic judgement is so subjective.

  • Drew Music

    Daaaamn, dog, I don’t believe I’ve ever disagreed with a rating here more than now. To each their own and all that, but this was a solid 3.5 for me and I hate that I keep not having the time to give it a proper play-through.

    • drug_genosh

      same! 3.5 easy!

    • Acid Spine

      Couldn’t agree more

  • Basil Boss

    1.5/5????? are u fucking serious

    • Eldritch Elitist

      No, actually. You’re the lucky victim of our inaugural installment of “Angry Metal Punk’d!” How do you feel?

      • Drew Music

        That was beautiful.

  • Meriyas

    I didn’t listen to a lot of this album, but I didn’t particularly enjoy what I heard, so I have to agree with Eldritch on this one. Although I’ll give it a proper listen to see if I actually do enjoy it based on everyone else’s comments.

  • Frost15

    The album cover eye looks a lot like the one in Foulest Semen of a Sheltered Elite by TRoB

  • hallowed

    I’m digging it. It’s a lot to take in at once, but I found it rewarding in the end. Obviously I think it’s better than 1.5, but I understand the reasoning behind it.

  • Eli Valcik

    Dnot worry, that album cover is selling for NYP on bandcamp. This gets a 2.0 for me.

  • Eli Valcik

    The artist seemed really full of himself or at least theatrically over the top in the self description on bandcamp. It’s a fun read.

  • HeavyMetalHamster

    Reviews are totally subjective.
    I generally am finding myself agreeing with certain reviewers more than others and lend them more weight to reflect my tastes.
    I wonder if it’s possible to do a “Reviewer’s Score” AND a “If You’re Already A Fan Of Previous Works Score” ?

    • HeavyMetalHamster

      Having said that..if the new Leprous receives less than 4.5 …………..

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      Reviews are subjective? Oh boy, do I have a link for you… and right here on AMG!


    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      Reviews are subjective? Oh boy, do I have a link for you… and right here on AMG! just type “Subjectivity” on the search box for the website.

      • HeavyMetalHamster

        I appreciate the system….but ultimately still based on personal taste.
        As evidenced by the differing scores in the unsigned band reviews.

  • Slam Grandpa

    Seeing this being compared to the likes of Portal and Abyssal has me intrigued to listen to this album, despite the score, what I’ve heard on their bandcamp and seeing some within the comments respectfully disagreeing with the score you gave this album, I shall join their ranks, since I like what I see and hear from this album

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    I didn’t know Tchort’s dog had an eponymous band.

    • wayne the devil

      funny…speaking of, that makes me think of Nattefrosts’ perfect piss fart…ah the best of Black Metal has come and gone….

  • sir_c

    Nice to see such polarised reactions over here; in contrast to some other sub-2 star ratings, this one is leading to some debate.
    Similar to liking an Islay whisky (or not), there is no middle ground.

    • Equilux

      There are life forms who do not like Islay Whisky?

      • sir_c

        no, there are lifeforms that really love Islay and there are lifeforms that really loathe Islay. There is nothing in between. “Not Like” is such middle ground

  • WhamBamSam

    I feel like I give more credence to I, Voidhanger than they’ve actually earned. I really liked last year’s Howls of Ebb record, but aside from that I find most of the stuff they put out to just be sort of tiresome. I’m pretty much on board with this review. There’s just way too much ponderous bloat here.

  • Ondřej Hanus

    This calls for a second opinion, I think.

  • Nathan McCain

    This is a chore – no, slog – to get through!

  • I think this is pretty good actually. It’s one of the few releases that’s gained my attention lately.

  • Wyeth Holman

    I very much disagree with your opinion. But respect your right to be wrong.

  • WelhavenT

    I’m new here (not as a reader), I just had to say that I really, really like this album. Reminds me more of Ruins of Beverast than Portal, but that’s just me. Great site anyway, can’t agree on everything.

  • Dudeguy Jones

    I definitely like this more than you did, but I also don’t like it nearly as much as I had expected. Partly because it is so long. Its so hard to find time to properly listen to it. Its clearly not something you can just slice chunks off of and enjoy. Its also clearly not something you’re going to use as background music. So finding time to actually sit down and focus on whats going on, thats nigh impossible in my world.

    Some of the stuff sounds great. Some of it reminds me of Aevangelist. Which isn’t to say its bad, but its a bit formless and not quite my thing.
    The doom section was nice, but a bit of a different trip, I think. At least for me, it occupied different headspace than the first two songs so it seems, not jarring, but non-contiguous.

    EDIT: A solid 2.5 from the Jones camp!

  • David

    Aaaaand Pitchfork gave it a 7.4, which, in my mind, probably confirms this review.

  • Kronos

    Kronos approves of this album.

  • GWW

    Way better than 1.5, which is an insult to the great effort this kid put into this. Yes, it could use some trimming, which i predict will be in his future.

  • OldCrime

    Yeah no way this is a 1.5