Have you ever listened to a band and just known that they have an incredible acoustic album in them? Since the first time I heard Swallow the Sun, I’d been waiting for their acoustic release. Winterfylleth’s The Hallowing of Heirdom was a surprise to me – and also one of my favorite albums of its year and style. When you listen to Miasma, the debut album by Polish post-atmoblack group Rosk, you can just hear the acoustic album waiting to break free. The quiet, intimate passages between songs on Miasma were deeply affecting and begging to be explored further. Only two years later, here it is: Rosk returns with remnants, a fully acoustic, stripped-down, intimate dark folk album with clear atmoblack and doom metal inspiration. A fairly bold choice, considering this is the band’s sophomore full-length, but I could not be happier that they made it.
And that is the only mention of “happy” there’ll be; remnants is a dark, somber, and utterly devastating record. It’s written and performed in such a way as to find all of the light inside of you and extinguish it, gently and decisively. To this end, the inclusion of violin from Julianna Grzeszek was one of the best decisions Rosk could have made. “A Dying Breath” features some of the most powerful violin work I’ve ever heard, from the subtle to the downright devastating. Many of the band’s contributions to the music are atmospheric and slow; acoustic guitars and bass make up the core sound, while simple, dirge-like drumming gently pushes each song forward. “K.’s” singing is hugely improved from Miasma, and he brings the story of a lonely widow to life earnestly. Finally, ethereal strings and keys fill in the gaps with cold longing. Together, Rosk creates the perfect template for some truly sorrowful songs.
Six songs span forty-five minutes, bearing music that weaves complex tapestry of sorrow tied together by beautifully simple parts of the whole. “One Minute, A Lifetime” is carried in the first couple of minutes by K.’s mournful croon; he sounds utterly broken and beyond hopeless. When his verses end, acoustic plucking takes over with a ringing lead — far from complex, but close your eyes and it will take you far, far away. “Rosary” demonstrates Rosk’s power exceedingly well; nine minutes long, it borrows from the band’s origins by exploring K.’s “post-metal” singing style briefly before building up to a crescendo. The strumming on the guitar becomes reminiscent of the quickened power chords that made climaxes on Miasma, and the drumming builds up to a roar. Then… silence. Single notes on an acoustic guitar. Chilling quiet, more rewarding by far than any explosion of sound.
The production on remnants is something truly outstanding; it contributes heavily to the somber atmosphere, and creates the impression of being lost and alone in a sea of despair. Maciej Karbowski, credited with recording, mixing, and mastering, deserves a ton of respect for the way he’s taken Rosk’s interwoven parts and made each one clearly audible and affecting. The layered vocals, the ebb-and-flow prominence of the drums, and the way different acoustic passages move around the right and left audio channels gives Rosk a commanding presence despite their stripped-down sound. Of particular note is in closer “The Long Solitude,” in which a single acoustic guitar inhabits the left channel, while one of the bass drums exists almost solely in the right. In between the two, a single snare supports fragile, broken singing. The impression of being surrounded by the band and music is never stronger, and never more powerful, than here.
Listening to remnants is like walking through rainfall with no other way except forward. It’s like having your heart torn from your body and replaced by a violin that devastates and demolishes. remnants forces you to feel sorrow; it builds an atmosphere of pain and despair so dense and all-pervading that by the end of the record, you cannot help but welcome it. This is an intimate, honest, and uniquely painful record that wraps the listener in a blanket of cold and dark and offers a single, distant light on the horizon. And it is absolutely, devastatingly beautiful.