Koldovstvo – Ни царя, ни бога [Things You Might Have Missed 2021]

Sometimes a thing defies proper indexing or categorization. Tags may be applied to that thing and they may not be incorrect but nor do they properly encapsulate what that thing is. The nominally atmospheric black metal, probably Russian, project Koldovstvo, is just such a thing. Precious little No information is available about Koldovstvo, perhaps appropriately enough, since the name translates as something like “witchcraft” or “sorcery,” an ethos that drenches its—as far as I can tell— debut, Ни царя, ни бога1 (Ni tsarya, no Boga, which in turn seems to translate as Neither king, nor God).

To the extent you wish to label Ни царя, ни бога as atmospheric black metal, feel free. You won’t be wrong but the swirling, haunting melodies and eerie, otherworldly soundscapes go far beyond that, at times bordering on leaving the metalverse altogether (“II”). Seeming to exude age and strangeness, Koldovstvo’s warbling, tremulous refrains sound like an old, damaged music box being cranked by a frail arm, trying to coax out a melody. It is at once haunting and sinister, familiar and endearing. Glimmering synths and keys set a whimsical, almost hopeful, tone, while the vocals alternate between keening DSBM wails and clean, cultist chants, combining to suck any sense of light from proceedings. Muttered, half-heard exhortations seem to sit just behind the music, like whisperings from a bygone age, only surfacing properly once, briefly at the opening of “IV,” when a woman’s voice holds forth.

Beneath this swirling sea of atmospherics, sit the black metal elements of the record. Sharing some DNA with Spectral Lore’s epic Gnosis, Ни царя, ни бога sees pounding blast beats and frosty, sustained tremolos form a plateau on which the more ethereal elements base themselves. This blackened base is not the focus of the record, however. For one thing, it is not always present, with Koldovstvo leaning into drone and something approaching post-metal grandeur, particularly on “II” and “IV.” Secondly, the production pushes much of the blackened heaviness out of focus. Put at its simplest, the production on the metal elements of this release is muddy as hell, to the point that it just forms a part of the landscape, backing the diaphanous melodies that dominate.

It would be a mistake, however, to dismiss Koldovstvo’s sound as “poor” production. It is a quite deliberate choice and it works, exactly as I suspect it was intended to. The softening—or muddying, if you prefer—of the black metal fury, which would typically dominate a release like this, has the effect of amplifying the dreamy nature of the melodies and the fey vocals, both of which have taken up residence in the foreground. The aged, classical shades of the cover art, which combines the woman’s richly colored dress, bathed in dust motes and sunshine in the foreground, and the cracked plaster and tousled bed in the background is a perfect visual representation of these glimmering melodies over the restrained, tarnished blackened misery. Each time I come back to Ни царя, ни бога, I find myself struck anew but just how different Koldovstvo sounds from nearly everyone else operating in the atmospheric black metal space at the moment. If you have heard other bands described as ‘ghostly’ and liked it, you need to hear this.

Tracks to Check Out: “II,” “IV” and “V”

Show 1 footnote

  1. There appears to be a mixture of views on whether the italicization of Cyrillic characters is appropriate. I have done it out of a sense of slavish duty to house style but I apologize to our Russian reader if I have wronged her.
« »