Krolok – Funeral Winds & Crimson Sky Review

Delve deep in and listen… listen to the atmospheres of an arcane night and return within your thoughts into bygone times.” So goes Krolok’s description of their second offering of ESL-inflected black metal. The band, hailing from a literal Carpathian forest, bills itself as “atmospheric.” Their actual sound, however, riffs on the age-old question: “What if trve and kvlt, but also having of dungeon synth keys?” Superfluous prepositions fly like a cloud of bats as these Slovaks drop a slab of organ-heavy second wave worship. Can they find their own route through this well-traveled patch of darkness? Let’s delve!

Krolok is derivative by design, describing their music as a return to the way things were done in the nineties. That means guitars harsher than AMG’s comments on a n00b first draft, rudimentary drumming, and strummed riffs played with more passion than precision. The barely-there bass leaves the synths that are Krolok’s signature instrument to carry a heavy load. They lend moody accents here, double the guitars there, and occasionally carry lead sections of their own. Solos are jagged and fleeting, making a quick point before they recede back into the riffage. The touchstones are proudly obvious: early Immortal and Bathory, with the keys adding a hint of Emperor’s grandeur. It all adds up to an exercise in Gothic eeevil that doesn’t break new ground because it’s not trying to—which means that for Funeral Winds & Crimson Sky, it all comes down to execution.

There’s fun to be had on this dungeon crawl. Krolok spent their early days singing about vampires, but lately they’ve been focused on ancient ruins and the horrors that may lie beneath.1 It’s a novel approach that feels specific to the dilapidated castles that dot the foothills of the Little Carpathians. Krolok is writing what they know, taking what they see every day and running it through the filter of singer, guitarist, keyboard player, and all-around mastermind HV’s imagination. The new subject matter doesn’t stop HV from coming on all Lestat-like; the lyrics can’t always be understood, but at least two of these songs (“Toward the Duskportals” and “The Reptile Abyss Beneath Dowina”) feature seductive invitations to join him on dark journeys. The music, simple as it is, succeeds at conjuring an atmosphere of gloomy twilight in unforgiving country. You can feel the chill of night approaching in “Black Lore of the Fens” and headbanging highlight “Funeral Winds & Crimson Sky,” and you’d better get somewhere safe before the sun disappears behind the mountains.

A band this indebted to its forebears always faces the question, “why not just listen to the records that inspired them?” Krolok tries to answer by throwing in new wrinkles here and there. There’s a rollicking speed metal riff, a descendant of the Motörhead family tree, that peps up “The Reptile Abyss Beneath Dowina.” A melodic lead guitar line briefly rears its head in the same song, and a strummed acoustic takes over near the end of the instrumental “Path to the Haunted Ruins.” But these moments are rare enough to conclude that Funeral Winds & Crimson Sky is more committed to homage than it is to inspiration. The spook-house keyboards are a relatively fresh aspect of the outfit’s approach, but as the numbers roll by it becomes obvious that they tend to be deployed in the same way each time. There’s a wearying pattern to the songwriting—by the time you’re listening to penultimate number “Unveiled Subterranean Treasures,” Krolok’s limited bag of tricks has reached the point of diminishing returns.

When someone tries to freeze an art form at a particular moment in time, they’re ultimately trading in nostalgia. Joker can ape Martin Scorsese all it wants, but that movie will never have the shattering impact of Taxi Driver.2 The same math applies to Funeral Winds & Crimson Sky. The ghosts that haunt this record aren’t limited to the ones floating around ruined Slovak castles. They also have names like Quorthon, Euronymous, and Dead—and until Krolok commits to building on the foundations laid for them by these giants, there’s only so much to be gained by accompanying them on their midnight travels.

Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Osmose Productions
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: December 21st, 2021

Show 2 footnotes

  1. The name Krolok is taken from the villain in Roman Polanski’s The Fearless Vampire Hunters, a character who was later repurposed as the protagonist of notorious Broadway flop Dance of the Vampires.
  2. What?! Joker is awesome. This n00b obviously knows nothing about show business. – Holdeneye
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