Style: Melodic Black Metal
Release Date: 24 Apr 2020
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Here's another black metal album from Satanath Records, who are putting out a lot of interesting material nowadays, mostly in that genre. This time, the band is Setoml, from Kyiv in the Ukraine, who are just two people: Serge Krivoviaz on vocals and Anton Semenenko, who goes by DeMort and plays all the instruments. The genre is nominally melodic black metal, which seems fair, but Krivoviaz's voice is often as close to a death growl as a black shriek and slower sections are as reminiscent of death/doom as ambient black.
The opening songs, Flames and In the Cold Eyes, set the pace. The drums are fast, as you might expect, though the tempo varies considerably because of double bass fills. The guitars often run as slowly as the drums go fast and have an icy tone to them that helps invoke the frozen wastes of the north, even though Kyiv is as close to the deserts of Iraq as it is to the fjords of Norway. The vocals are an odd mix of styles, as Krivoviaz sings with an expected hoarse shriek but one that's surprisingly deep and growly.
I'm not sure what instruments Semenenko actually plays, beyond the obvious guitar, bass and drums, but it sounds like there's an organ in there too on quite a few tracks. I first heard it on In the Gray Field of Hope but it's particularly strong on Night Dance and Their Wings are Gray Like Spirits. I really like that sound, whether it's keyboard-driven or just a guitar tone. It certainly moves slowly but surely, like the guitars do, providing melody over the wall of sound drums.
While Flames defines the sound that the band follow pretty much throughout, they do add some interesting touches to later songs. The first to grab me in a way that went beyond the core sound was Thousands Shimmering Souls, which stalks gloriously for a while, building slowly with a guitar that sounds as if it shimmers as much as the souls of the title. The drums are inventive at the midpoint too, before the vocals turn into a goblin chorus chattering at the base of the giant trees that the music become.
At over eight minutes, it's the longest song here and maybe it's the longer songs that impress me most. Their Wings are Gray Like Spirits almost reaches eight minutes too and that's in my top three as well, with the organ adding a wonderful extra layer. Best of all, though, is Night Dance, clocking in at just under six minutes. It kicks off with some really unusual rhythms for a black metal album, but quickly settles into a memorable groove. The organ on both those tracks is a delight, adding simple but creepy and very effective melodies over the top of everything else.
While the four or five minute songs are decent too, they feel like they're a level of complexity shy of the longer ones, as if they're missing an element that would elevate them too. That doesn't mean that they're not interesting, as they still have their moments. By the Dark Lake unfolds much slower until it ramps back up to full speed and blisters, and Setoml are more interesting when they slow down than when they shift into high gear.
I didn't catch any of the lyrics, but apparently these songs follow a common theme, as given away by the album title. Each explores the reincarnation of the soul after death, presumably in a different way. The press release talks about the nocturnal butterfly, as some belief systems suggest that departed souls reincarnate as such creatures. It's certainly a neat idea to build an album around but I can't say how successfully it manages that without seeing the lyrics.
This is the first album for Setoml, which was only formed in 2018, but both members play in other bands too. DeMort played guitar in Amily, a doom/death band, and handles everything in Luna, a symphonic funeral doom project. Both have albums out, as does I Miss My Death, a symphonic doom/death outfit with gothic flavour for which Serge Krivoviaz, credited as Sergiy Kryvoyaz, sings and plays guitar. I'm especially interested in the latter but ought to check out the former too.