Syn Ze Şase Tri – Ultimu’ lup [Things You Might Have Missed 2022]

Syn Ze Sase Tri - Ultimu' lup - Red cover art featuring a warrior wearing a horned helm with the viser closed, he is swinging an axe at a creature and surrounded by wolves; the background is a forest scene, red, with a full moon and a werewolf centered behind the warrior, arms extended, claws out and jaw open in a howl

Romania’s Syn Ze Şase Tri has been around since 2011, with too much of that time spent in a level of obscurity that I struggle to understand. While their debut, 2011’s Între două lumi, had serious production issues,1 I have consistently enjoyed the following releases. 2015’s Stăpîn Peste Stăpîni featured genuinely imaginative ideas which evoked Thyrfing and Moonsorrow at times and even Dr. A.N. Grier dubbed 2017’s Zăul moș a great record, commenting on the band’s increasing diversity and excellence. Still in league with Satan over at the excellent label Code666 after all these years, Syn Ze Şase Tri’s fifth full-length is entitled Ultimu’ lup, and it is their strongest slab of driven, bombastic, orchestral black metal since 2012’s Sub semnul lupului. And none of us should’ve missed it; least of all you.2

Ultimu’ lup is great black metal, but it is not fashionable black metal. It lacks the “atmosphere” associated with so many of the most popular black metal bands in the current zeitgeist and it ranges far from dissoblack, jazzy, or anything that anyone would label avant-garde. Rather, this troupe of Transylvanian black metallers ranges through dark, forested territory once roamed in the melodic glory days of the 1990s. In that sense, the name Ultimu’ lup, which translates roughly to Last Wolf,3 feels apt. Far from being a criticism, the band holding its own and driving its sound lone-wolfishly is a large part of what makes the album engaging.

From start to finish, Syn Ze Şase Tri has crafted their most consistent album to date. Ultimu’ lup often evokes Emperor in its intensity and composition and at times Old Man’s Child with hooky riffs that come layered with keys and bolstered with driving blasts. The vocals range between barking high-pitched growls and raw black metal screams, but there’s an operatic quality (and operatic vocals) that peeks through (“Din om neom” and “În chip hain”) to striking effect. Not only is this a new wrinkle to the band’s sound, but it derails any risk of monotony.4 If I have one complaint, it’s that the production—particularly the drums—feels dated; a ‘clean’ production job with drums produced a bit too much like 2004 for my liking.

Syn Ze Şase Tri’s sonic approach evokes nostalgia for me since I cut my teeth on the Dimmu Borgirs and Emperors of the world. But nostalgia alone never rates for much after the first couple spins. Rather, Ultimu’ lup sticks with me because it is a reminder that, when done well, orchestral black metal can still be brutal fun (“Hâtri”) and emotionally poignant (“Negru”). It can be bombastic (“În chip hain”) and it can be invigorating (“Blestem de fiară”). With new developments in their sound and an almost entirely new lineup for the last couple of albums, Syn Ze Şase Tri continues to quietly go about making great black metal in the style they want. And what’s more black metal than just doing your own thing in the face of all the trends?

Tracks to Check Out: ”Hâtri,” “În chip hain,” “Blestem de fiară”

Show 4 footnotes

  1. Or the promo version I had was just bad, but I suspect that it was the result of being a DR4 and then ripped to mp3, I’ve been told that can result in obvious peaking if the file is ‘over-leveraged’, so to speak.
  2. I hold you personally responsible for this.
  3. Which I guessed from context clues and roots and was happily affirmed by Google Translate. I always forget that Romanian is a romance language.
  4. This operatic quality is not the clownish drama of Cradle of Filth or later Dimmu Borgir, but reminds me more of Fleshgod Apocalypse or Emperor.
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