Album: Cesta podzemnými sálami Kovovlada
Label: Sun & Moon Records
Genre: Black Metal / Dark Ambient
Release Date: April 8th, 2019
I’ll be honest, I picked this EP as a sort of reviewer’s challenge. Why so? Let’s briefly discuss a simple maxim – format matters. You’ll hear a lot of talk in music press nowadays that the album is dead and that the single is the new thing. This might be true in the realm of mainstream pop, and that format indeed suits the genre better than the album. Metal on the other hand was firmly built around the album. Other formats (apart from maybe the EP) don’t suit it nearly as much, whether in the purely musical, artistic sense or the release schedule, business sense.
What we have here is a two song, 10-minute EP, intended as a single thematic unit. Functionally, and due to it being decently shorter than EP’s in general, I’d say it functions more as a single (even though the press release insists it is not). Not only that, it also diverges stylistically from what the band usually does. Considering all that, the undertaking of this review poses a bit of a conundrum, as the subject release is opposed to the regular metal and also the usual review method we practice.
Having said that, a few words about the band. Malokarpatan come Slovakia and have two great albums under their belt, the latest one, “Nordkarpatenland”, released in 2017. Despite being fundamentally steeped in old-school stylings, I’d call them compellingly fresh. It’s a combination of early black metal a-la Hellhammer, Tormentor, Bathory and especially their geographical (and musical!) neighbours, Master’s Hammer. But it’s not just grim, shittily-produced thrash, as it comes with a hefty dose of traditional heavy metal styling a la Mercyful Fate, resulting in some non-stop, ripping yet melodic guitar antics. But there’s more! On top of all that, thematically they’re committed towards Slavic mythology and especially folklore, telling tales of goblins, witches and the hapless villagers’ (often unfortunate) encounters with them. All in all, it’s a wonderful musical and narrative package.
Alright, enough beating about the bush and delaying the inevitable. Time to talk about the release itself. “Cesta podzemnými sálami Kovovlada” (translated: Road through the underground halls of Kovovlad) follows in the same thematic approach, maybe this time being committed more towards narrative exposition than musical exploration. It tells the story of the mythical king Kovovlad, ruler of the underworld, who kidnaps a woman from the surface to become his bride. The first part of this story, or the first track, is composed as a dark ambient bit. It’s got that dungeon synth vibe going on with plenty dungeon-y sounds – water dripping, some beast moaning, assorted rasping and other unsettling noises. Unfortunately, just as you started feeling the stale underground air in your nostrils, the second track starts. This is my man criticism of the music itself – the first track doesn’t segue naturally into the second. This way it just feels like a separate interlude, not like an integral first half of a whole story. The second track is properly metal. You can still tell it’s Malokarpatan, but their approach shifted a bit. For starters, the production is much more murky than on their other records, appropriately for the subterranean motif. The songwriting is also dumbed down, veering closer to Malokarpatan’s black metal influences rather than heavy metal ones, delivering a stomping downtuned groove.
And, well, that’s it. I’ve run out of things to say and ways to prolong the review. I do enjoy the short musical story we’ve been given, but I don’t feel like the compactness of the package justifies its existence. It would’ve been so much better if it had done more, if nothing up the runtime to 20, hell, even 15 minutes. Experimenting with new approaches is always a good thing for bands, but this remains nothing but a brief showcase of such for Malokarpatan. They’ve noted that this is a one-time release, as in the songs won’t appear on other records. So what you see is what you get. But I don’t think we’ve gotten much.
1. Cesta podzemnými sálami Kovovlada I
2. Cesta podzemnými sálami Kovovlada II
Total Playing Time: 10:32