Wednesday 10 November 2021

Adliga - Vobrazy (2021)

Country: Belarus
Style: Post-Doom Metal
Rating: 8/10
Release Date: 5 Nov 2021
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I've only reviewed a couple of albums from Belarus before, Belle Morte a mere couple of months ago, but here's another one, thanks to guitarist Ignat Pomazkov who kindly sent me a copy. It's an interesting album, one that, quite frankly, I wasn't ready for. I knew that I was into this on the first listen, but it's a post-metal album with a particular focus on doom, which is a combo that I'm sure I've never heard before. Metal Archives lists Adliga as one of only 85 groups who play doom/post-metal around the globe and they're the first one that I've listened to.

What I expect from doom is a slow pace and a heavy sound. I've heard all sorts of guitar tones and vocal styles within that basic framework, but doom has to be slow and heavy. This album is both in its way, but deceptively so. It never really speeds up, but it doesn't always feel slow. And it's heavy while often seeming to be not particularly heavy. I've had this on repeat for the whole day and it's told me that it's accessible music, even if it isn't remotely mainstream; and that it's not the doom metal that I know and not really the post-metal I know either.

I found myself going through an odd loop. The second song, Naščadkam, begins crushingly heavy, with a harsh male voice and an enticing female shout over slow beats and deep guitar. Of course, this is heavy stuff! How else could we hear this? But if this is heavy stuff, why didn't I feel that way on the opener, Apošni raz? So I went back to that and it's suddenly heavy too, especially late on and if not remotely as heavy as Naščadkam, but only because I'm thinking of it from that perspective. It feels odd.

What I ended up realising is that this cycles through three different genres and these three don't always mix. Sometimes it's doom metal and only doom metal, like that first minute of Naščadkam which verges on death/doom and the sections of that song that revisit that approach. It's brutally heavy stuff, with a recognisable clean doom metal guitar. Katja Sidelova's shouts are extreme but never seem to have come from hardcore. She endows them with real emotion and we can't escape the power. I usually hate shouted vocals but I simply adore these, especially in a conversation with the harsh male vocal of Uladzimir Burylau.

Sometimes it's post-metal and only post-metal, as perhaps best depicted in Paparać Kvietka. Sure, it's still slow and dark but I wouldn't call this doom in the slightest. It's experimental, with a vocal that begins with spoken word and gradually escalates as the song runs on, and with instrumental backing to match. My thoughts here were of bands like the Swans and others that I think of with a label like alternative slapped on them, albeit not the sort of alternative that gets played on radio stations across America.

And, sometimes it's both post-metal and doom metal at the same time, but not too often. What I think caught me out is that I tried to imagine what the two genres would sound like combined and this rarely does that. Instead, the band weave back and forth between post- and doom without us really acknowledging when that happens. That makes the album feel something like a magic trick but a really enjoyable one.

It also makes it hard to choose a favourite song because so much of the album plays not as a set of individual tracks but as a single piece of music, something new and enticing that we haven't heard before. I'm impressed by the band's sound and how heavy it gets while staying so clean. Maybe I'd plump for Naščadkam and Žyvy, because they effortlessly combine all three of those approaches.

The band here are always interesting and I'd happily listen to this in entirely instrumental form. It never falls into the background because, even though there are points where the guitars are just playing riffs, there's always development going on, whichever song I'm on building and becoming and evolving. And that goes for whichever instrument you want to focus your ears onto.

However, I have to call out the vocals as a real highlight. Sidelova's voice is versatile, shifting from a clean and melodic style to those emphatic shouts, without ever losing power. Burylau's voice is a supporting one, not used remotely as much, but he has a warm growl that fits alongside whatever Sidelova is doing at the time. I found myself eventually pressing stop after my ninth or tenth time through the album just so I could wander over to YouTube and see Žyvy being performed.

Now, what else is going on musically in Belarus?

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