Those of you who have been following Angry Metal Guy’s Emporium of Curiosities since its inception may recognize this folk-doom metal band: Silent Stream of Godless Elegy. If you remember, His Overlordiness’ criticisms of their 2011 record, Návaz, regarded in no small part its lack of x-factor. While I only just discovered Silent Stream of Godless Elegy this year, I went back to hear their older records and I would agree; they lacked that intangible quality. Smutnice, however, resonates with me so completely I fear for the structural integrity of my bones.
Announced in March, Smutnice caught my attention thanks to a little blurb describing collaboration between Silent Stream of Godless Elegy and Yossi Sassi (ex-Orphaned Land) to produce the album. At the time only “Kdo z nás je víc” was available to sample, and I fell deeply in love. Featuring gorgeous cello (Michal “Siki” Sýkora), violin (Gabriela Povraznikova), bouzouki and dulcimer work, Hana Hajdová’s brassy intonations, Michal Milták’s clobbering drums and Pavel “Hrnec” Hrnčíř’s death growls and solemn cleans, “Kdo z nás je víc” had me rabid for the full album’s release in May.
For Smutnice, the band ramped up their Czech folk underpinnings by several orders of magnitude, allowing their doom sensibilities to flow through the music as opposed to smearing it on top. Take “Syneku” and “Bezbrezi,” for example. Two of the most beautiful songs I encountered this year, they feature minimal input from the guitars and bring the vocals and the bowed instruments forward to evoke doleful ballads sung in the middle of a rain-soaked cobblestone street. “Maloverna,” another highlight, begins with a fun interchange between bassist Stanislav Pavlík and a woodblock. The simplicity of the affair takes center stage from there and pushes the song forward until guitarist Radek Hajda launches the track towards its grand conclusion.
In the end, what Silent Stream of Godless Elegy was always missing was the perfect ratio of doom to folk and the songwriting necessary to best showcase their inimitable sound. It took them six albums to finally find it. Smutnice is warm, inviting and festive, yet it simultaneously compels me to reminisce on lost loved ones with those around me. Tears well up in my eyes as I tell my tales, and then the band strikes up a tune. Someone takes my hand and we all dance and drink the night away, celebrating the lives of our predecessors now departed. We laugh, cry, rejoice, mourn and we do all of it together, warm by the fire on a bitter cold day. Smutnice never fails to transport me to that place with every spin. My hope is that it will do the same for you.
Tracks to Check Out: “Kdo z nás je víc,” “Maloverna,” “Bezbrezi”