UKĆ – Coming Out Review

In many ways, black metal is a lot like an amiable 5-year-old child: it plays well with others, but doesn’t want to change; and it certainly doesn’t want you to change it (it also screams a lot, but we’ll leave that aside for now). This explains why, of all the subgenres it gets linked to, the one with whom it struggles to play with the most is prog. Prog is all about change; about being mature; about being important. In other words, prog is the adolescent boy next door who lopes on your yard too frequently for comfort. Adolescents and pre-school kids don’t generally enjoy each other’s company, which is why truly excellent “black-prog” is about as rare as a Felagund 4.0 in the metal scene. But in preparation for having a kid of my own soon, I decided to take a risk and pick up UKĆ’s debut album, Coming Out. UKĆ is the brainchild of Łukasz ‘Icanraz’ Sarnacki, a Polish artist who has knocked around the local scene for a while. Billed as “black-prog from the heart,” I was impressed by some of the early singles, and the promo pit wasn’t exactly overflowing with goodness, so I grabbed Coming Out. Would I get the 5-year-old? The adolescent? Neither? Both??

Straight off the bat, Coming Out is a strange duck. It was originally released in Polish in April, 2023, and then Sarnacki recorded it in English, in an almost direct word-for-word translation, to try to reach a larger audience. There’s a delightful innocence lurking in that idea: most metalheads I know can barely make out a single word of the songs they’re listening to, which, given the quality of many of the lyrics, is often a blessing. Nevertheless, Sarnacki feels strongly that what he’s saying is important, and Coming Out is clearly a very personal record, dealing with issues of addiction, mental health crises, and domestic abuse (all of which have affected Sarnacki personally). Musically, there are elements of black metal, atmospheric metal, and prog, with most lyrics being bellowed rather than sung. The song structures are atypical, but this isn’t the wild, free-form aesthetic of, say, Ashenspire or Imperial Triumphant. While Coming Out is original and sincere, some missteps unfortunately hold it back.

The major issue is that much of the material simply isn’t interesting enough to warrant the listener’s full attention. This is because Coming Out is neither wild and crazy enough to appeal to the avant-garde folk, nor does it have the riffs and melodies for the meat-and-taters second-wave gang. Too often, there’s a fairly standard riff in the background, sitting astride a weird time signature, over which Sarnacki bellows his stories. When this goes on for minutes at a time, it quickly becomes a bit dull. This is a pity, because when UKĆ does provide engaging melodies (such as on the urgent “Deaf Eyes”), the results veer in interesting territory. Sadly, these are not nearly frequent enough to make Coming Out an engaging listen.

The other issue for me was the vocals. While the bellowing is fine, if somewhat grating, when Sarnacki switches to cleans, he frequently goes flat, jarring the listener. When he tries falsetto (as on the bewildering “Why,” which is perfectly titled, but not in the way Sarnacki intended) it comes off as weird and grating. Admittedly, this is a personal gripe, but I spent far too many moments wincing at the failure to hit a particular note that it distracted from the music.

Overall, Coming Out feels like an awkward, yet sincere, debut that doesn’t quite hit the mark. This is a pity because its heart is absolutely in the right place, and Sarnacki is at least trying something new and interesting. It’s just a pity that major flaws in the songwriting and vocal performance hinder it. If UKC can address these issues, it could be onto something. But until then, Coming Out is stuck in an awkward phase.

Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Self Release
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: August 18th, 2023

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