Johann Wolfgang Pozoj
Escape of Pozoj

This is why I love this gig. Every month or so, I get a package of random CD promos. Sometimes I know of the bands or the label, but more often than not, it’s yet more mystery discs from the vast reaches of the metal underground. And once in awhile, you wind up with a gem.

Or, in the case of Johann Wolfgang Pozoj, a major discovery.

As with other Eastern European bands like Drudkh and Negura Bunget, Croatia’s JW Pozoj play a hypnotic, naturalistic form of black metal that also mixes in somber doom and dark ambient. It’s an experience that’s both organic and alien, raw and sumptuous – and it’s utterly mesmerizing. And where their Scandinavian black metal brethren may employ slicing tremolo riffs and strains of classical or folk music to conjure frozen Northern landscapes, Pozoj evokes a different mood altogether. These are murmurs and roars from beneath the earth, choked up through ancient soil and into the endless autumn.

Prologue “Vječno Robljem” sets the tone perfectly, with booming synths (John Carpenter or Goblin, take your pick) resounding over an ominous bassline. It’s the summoning call for the Pozoj – an ancient Slovenian word for dragon – which wakes from its slumber with a deep, gargled roar. It’s one of the most memorable metal vocals I’ve heard in ages – as peculiar and abrasive as Master’s Hammer – and incredibly versatile too, as we’ll later hear.

From “Vječno Robljem” through “Trpaš se po Mesima,” which is more than half of the running-time, Escape of Pozoj flows as one continuous experience. “Iz Grotla Života” rumbles midtone black metal riffs over a doomy bassline, then glides into rolling, tribal drums and chiming arpeggios. The pace picks up with “Untitled” and “Song of Pozoj,” as ethereal ambience gives way to a scrawl of thrashy riffs and furious drumming. And all the while, there’s that guttural, unearthly vocal, like a primeval spirit calling from somewhere deep within the forest.

Then, with “Careless are Your Souls” and its epic follow-up “Forest,” a break. A slower, more wandering pace, with a pulsing bassline that lulls you for the grand entrance of JW Pozoj’s clean vocals. These are spoken word in a distinctive Eastern European dialect, all trilled consonants and lilting musicality – which makes it all the more striking when the death-gargle comes roaring back. And there’s one more voice yet to come – a sonorous croon on the album’s magisterial closer, “Prstima Prelazim Preko Tvoga Tijela”.

Johann Wolfgang Pozoj (which is a band, by the way, and not a solo project) is one of the most unique and honest black metal acts that I’ve heard in a long time. I’d put these guys up there with Enslaved, classic Tiamat and Negura Bunget as masters of evocative, artful metal, and I’d rank Escape of Pozoj alongside modern classics like Om, Dead As Dreams or Blood in Our Wells. There’s no gimmickry here, no artifice. No ostentatious symphonics or cartoonish posturing. This is the real fucking deal.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jordan Itkowitz
February 5th, 2010

Comments

  1. Commented by: Apollyon

    Good review as usual and the album sounds more than promising. Need to check it out.


  2. Commented by: Cynicgods

    Comparing JWP to bands that occupy a significant place in my life. VERY intrigued.

    By the way, have you heard the newest Thy Catafalque, Gaba? SOMEONE needs to review that extraordinary masterpiece. ;)


  3. Commented by: bast

    Definitely got my attention.


  4. Commented by: gabaghoul

    @ Cynic: No but I remember you mentioning it several times. Will look into it.


  5. Commented by: gordeth

    I’m sold. Anyone know where I can buy it?


  6. Commented by: Apollyon

    Seems like it’s next to impossible to get your hands on the album; tried a few distros. Yet to hear back from the other, but a German one @ http://www.schwarzdorn.de/ has it. Too bad the shipping rates are atrocious. Also contacted the band to see if they offer it, but again haven’t heard back. Will keep you posted.


  7. Commented by: gabaghoul

    the band also has a Facebook page, you can try to contact them through there as well.


  8. Commented by: gabaghoul

    did you guys listen to the myspace samples or are you just rabid to hear it based on my nice words?


  9. Commented by: gordeth

    Mostly based on your nice words. Their myspace page only has one song from this album on it. The other songs must be from an earlier demo and they aren’t as good.


  10. Commented by: gabaghoul

    check again, there are 4 songs from Escape on there – Iz Grotla Života, Careless are Your Souls, I am the Forest and Trpaš se po Mesima, plus one from Birth of Pozoj (which I agree, not as good). But they’re really not meant to be taken in on their own, much better as a full album experience.


  11. Commented by: Johann Wolfgang Pozoj

    Hey guys.
    You can contact the band at: jwpozoj@gmail.com.

    For now, our CDs are available here: http://www.schwarzdorn.de/Shop_english/assets/s2dmain.html?http://www.schwarzdorn.de/Shop_english/index2_2.php or if you contact us directly.

    Thank you for an awesome review!

    Sincerely,
    J.W.Pozoj


  12. Commented by: Cynicgods

    I checked your myspace page and all I can say is this: Why aren’t you signed???????? The music industry baffles me sometimes.

    Methinks a label like Code 666 or Profound Lore would fit you like a glove, JWP.


  13. Commented by: gabaghoul

    funny you should mention that Cynic, I was thinking the same thing.


  14. Commented by: Jordan Itkowitz

    so JWP just signed with Code666, just like we said. Perfect fit.

    In fact, shortly after this review went up I sent an email to Code666 with a review of their 10-year anniverary disc, using that as an intro so I could plug JWP as a band they needed to check out.

    Now, I’m not sayin’ that’s how the band and label got talking to one another but it sure would be cool, right? :)


  15. Commented by: Mireletion

    As a friend of the band and as a person that did most of their EoP PR, I did choose to send in the CD to TotD for a reason. ;)

    Either way, thanks a bunch for your support Jordan, and the rest of the staff!

    Mirela


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