Khors
Wisdom of Centuries

Eastern Europe has produced some excellent pagan black metal bands over the last decade or more, the most well-known being Drudkh, Negura Bunget and Nokturnal Mortum. Yet there are undoubtedly dozens of other quality, uniquely Eastern acts still sheltered by those untravelled hills and forests. Ukraine’s Khors is one of those treasures.

Wisdom of Centuries is their fifth full-length in 7 years, and a very worthy discovery if you’re a fan of the aforementioned acts (in fact, the band features two members from Astrofaes and Hate Forest, which are tangentially tied to Drudkh). Khors’ sound is also rich in rustic tone and melancholy, but rather than crafting their songs from a skeletal jangle of folky guitars and percussion, the band also blends in the dense and atmospheric sound of late 90s melodic black metal.

Mactatus, mid-career Gehenna and Daemonarch immediately came to mind as soon as the stately and somber “Black Forest’s Flaming Eyes’ got underway, although Khors uses the more naturalistic Eastern palette vs the heaving swells of gothic keyboards from bands of that time period. Yet for its 9-minute running time, this track doesn’t really seize the imagination until its final third, when chiming piano and tribal, pagan drumming join in to create an immersive atmosphere.

That’s the case for the album as a whole, which trudges along at a somber and midtempo pace, interspersing a handful of longish, oppressive songs like the title track (crushing guitars, skyward bellows, cawing ravens) with some short and spare instrumentals (the best being the pretty, mid-album lament of “Horizong Glassy”). The palette is there, but it’s not always used as effectively as it could have been, or with enough variety.

That does not apply, however, to “The Last Leaves,” which is the album’s far-and-away standout, and for me, one of the best atmospheric black metal tracks of the year. It succeeds more than its companions because of its varied structure and more insistent tempo; a minute in, it switches up to a swift gallop which reminds me of recent work by Agalloch or melodic death/doom acts like Rapture or Insomnium. It even brings in a ringing tremolo melody line, something missing from some of the other tracks on the album. If there’s such a thing as blissful black metal, this is it.

After listening to Wisdom of Centuries a few times, I did my homework and checked out some of the band’s earlier releases. Their previous record, Return to Abandoned,  has a similar sound, but a quicker overall gait and a more dynamic and generous use of keyboards and melody. I’ve been listening to that release more than this one, but just to put things in perspective, I still prefer both albums to much of Drudkh’s recent work (including this year’s Eternal Turn of the Wheel). That alone should be enough to get you hunting.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jordan Itkowitz
September 10th, 2012

Comments

  1. Commented by: Shane

    Great band. I have this on order


  2. Commented by: Guilliame

    Strong like Bull


  3. Commented by: Cynicgods

    This is fantastic. Thanks to your extremely descriptive reviews I found another addition to the year-end list. Keep up the good work, Jordan!


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