Monday 11 February 2019

Vapor Hiemis - Чараўнiца cмерцi (2019)

Country: Belarus
Style: Black Industrial Metal
Rating: 6/10
Release Date: 17 Jan 2019
Sites: Bandcamp | Facebook | YouTube

Here's an odd sound that grabbed my ear. Vapor Hiemis play pagan black metal but they're also either industrial or EDM, depending on the source, which translates to the fact that they have a programmed drum machine rather than a live drummer. They also have a band member who plays 'folk instruments', which is why this is often a folk metal album too. How it veers from EDM to folk metal is a wild trip and I'm still not sure how well it works.

It works well on the opener, Ад сонца прэч, with a driving beat, a crunchy bass and a lead bagpipe. The vocals vary from clean to harsh and it's only the slight distortion on the drums that lessens this a little. The title translates to Away from the Sun, which kind of works for an anti-folk song. The death folk approach hits its peak on the final track, Поўнач or North which adds a female folk vocal and I don't know how many folk instruments.

I dig the idea of death folk and Google Translate suggests that Чараўнiца cмерцi means either "death sorceress" or "fairy of the cemetery", depending on how I search. Either way, that's an enticing image to accompany the music and I soon found myself visualising the club scene in Blade with blood pouring from the sprinkler system as everyone feeds on the one unwitting victim.

I think I'd dig death folk more if there was a consistent sound here. The title track ditches the folk sound until late on and frankly ditches the industrial side too. The first half is classic black metal with appropriate shrieks and a sort of happy drinking song in the middle. The drum speed varies but hits some serious bpms at points. Only in the mid section does the wall of sound descend while the pipes of death wail. Then it's back to hyperspeed until a flute joins those pipes for the finalé.

The third track marks the wildest change to the sound, because it's when the EDM is ramped up, with Euro-disco hissing cymbals and a whoop of an electronic motif above and behind the crunch of the band. Maybe if the Prodigy had been born into the Norwegian black metal elite, they'd sound like this. Then again, maybe not. I was mostly intrigued by the idea of who might dance along to this.

Certainly I'm able to see the pit churning happily away but this is a lot more extreme stuff than anything Rammstein came up with. And always those flutes and/or pipes come back to provide the melody, like in the truest dance song, Памірае восень. That translates to Dying Fall so maybe it really is a moshing song.

By five songs in, I started to really wonder about Vapor Hiemis. Are they really a single band or is Vapor Hiemis Russian for "remix album"? While there are some commonalities throughout, these three tracks could easily have been the product of different remix artists messing with the black industrial base of a band who provide everything here but don't actually sound like this.

Maybe they're just that schizophrenic but the end result here feels like a band who play in different styles to different audiences but lumped all of that onto one disc and that decision will affect their potential audience. I dug some of their more folk metal oriented material, especially Поўнач, and didn't dislike their black metal onslaught tracks. I found myself surprisingly intrigued by the EDM stuff too but can't really say that it's my scene.

The point is that I don't know a lot of people who are into folk metal and black metal and EDM all at the same time. But hey, Vapor Hiemis have been releasing material since 2013 and this is their fourth album, so it's clear that there's an audience in Belarus for this. I applaud them for being their own band.

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