Kanawha Black

If you follow this site and my writings (you’re not the only one as I’m kind of a big deal), you might be asking yourself why a folk metal album is getting the review treatment from me. Instead, you should immediately be thinking the subject of this review is entirely worth your attention. It’s been a long time since Nechochwen released the excellent Heart of Akamon and damn it if Kanawha Black wasn’t entirely worth the wait.

There’s no lengthy intro, no fooling around, just an immediate riff with the title track “Kanawha Black.” What sticks out to me instantly is the production. Heart of Akamon wasn’t bad but could have used some cleaning up. The pristine yet somehow still a little DIY-sounding master here is excellent. This track has several tempo changes, including that driving main riff, a clean chorus, a blast beat-driven black metal section, and a bridge including the chorus lyrics, but a different melody.

With an infectious opener as described, the next track, “The Murky Deep,” could be considered a bit of a momentum killer with its clean-picked guitars. It’s not entirely instrumental, though, despite seeming that way for the first half. I’m not sure I would have made the same decision, but I’ve also never written an album as engaging and engrossing as Kanawha Black, so Nechochwen wins this round.

They also immediately pick up with the next thoroughly engaging track, “I Can Die but Once.” This is where they lean into the folk elements of their sound as there are multiple clean guitar passages and quiet parts. Excellent clean vocals are also prevalent. Not surprisingly, this track has the feel of one of Panopticon’s lighter ones. It’s the campfire song of the bunch.

One of this album’s best attributes is the balance between driving, heavy riffs and clean, introspective, quiet moments. I mentioned Panopticon previously and if you’ve never heard Nechochwen, that comparison is a good place to begin. Before the final two tracks is the over 7-minute “Visions, Dreams, and Signs,” which is the perfect encapsulation of this. Not only is it one of the heavier tracks, but it has some somber, quieter moments within, creating that juxtaposition. The clean, almost chanted vocals really add to the atmosphere.

“Generations of War,” track 6, is one hell of a closer, with its repeated refrain of “when every stand is the last” on top of a driving riff. The only problem is that it’s not the final track. That fadeout at the end hammers home that it is, but “Across the Divide” starts. If it weren’t a great track and/or the album was longer, this would qualify as a misstep. Fortunately for the duo of Nechochwen, it is not.

This is not only my favorite folk metal album of the year so far, but one of my favorite releases altogether. Call it a small amount of bias since I am still relatively close geographically to where these guys create their masterpieces, but I’m sure my opinion will be validated when many other reviews start to trickle in and others who are far more into this folk metal sub-genre agree with me. You owe it to yourself and Nechochwen to give this album a go. It may just end up on your list, too.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by J Mays
April 26th, 2022


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