Raised on a field biologist’s fear-inspiring parables the Grey Wolf was briefly conjured as the greatest antagonist of my nightmares as a child. At least until I was old enough to read. Inspired by Nature documentaries and Jack London’s White Fang the intelligence and imposing beauty of the species saw my fixation veering from subconscious fear towards childish obsession. For an Old Slav the greater deities of cult and spirituality involved a wolfen spirit of the moon and the night Horz in tandem with the vengeful sun god Dažbog‘s ability to transform into a wolf. Even when Christianity had dug its sinister claws into the southern Slavic region they couldn’t separate wolfen imagery from the people; Even today Serbians not only celebrate aggressive leadership and past reformists carrying Vuk (wolf) in their name, but the name remains more common than many Christian names. Serbia holds this most important symbol of ancestry and heroism close, and to understand their cultural ferocity one must understand the idea of the wolf as a spiritual protector capable of great violence. Pančevo, Serbia based atmospheric pagan black metal project All My Sins make a point of expressing these unique cultural gifts through fittingly aggressive, mystic black metal on their debut full-length ‘Pra Sila – Vukov Totem’, which translates roughly to ‘Do not fear, wolfen totem’.
Originally formed eighteen years ago as a five piece band All My Sins appeared very serious and well-prepared on their first two demos ‘The Night Sculpture’ (2002) and ‘From the Land of Shining Past’ (2004) but would soon lie dormant as key member Phaesphoros (Vladimir Uzelac) busied himself with Bethor, Terrörhammer, his own Wormhole Studios, and a half-decade spent with Kawir having played on the brilliant ‘Isotheos’ (2012). Yearning for a return to their own original ancient, and spiritually Slavic, concept the band would reactivate as a duo now opting for a session drummer (Nemir) on all recordings since 2016. Taking some evident lessons learned from the paganistic majesty of ‘Isotheos’ the project’s return came in the form of the highly melodic ‘Lunar / Solar’ EP in 2017. A concept elaborating the relationship of the moon and the sun with previously mentioned mythology in mind found All My Sins appearing all the more serious and professional. ‘Pra Sila – Vukov Totem’ continues this thread but focuses entirely on the wolf as a central figure in Slavic mythology.
Even if you chose to overlook the theme with the fair point that you don’t have a great system for translating the Serbian language, much less lyrical poetry, the ‘feeling’ and powerful melodic heights of the album will not be lost upon pagan/melodic black metal fans. ‘Pra Sila – Vukov Totem’ is a full hour and this length comes with a general absence of filler that you might expect on similarly achieved records from bands like Trimonium. Instead much of the guitar work is as melodically savage as an early Sorhin or Kampfar record but still defined slightly by those grand contributions to Kawir‘s legacy. “U Mlazevima Krvi” offers an excellent highlight for showcasing Phaesphoros‘ talent for aggressive guitar work driven by a strong melodic arc but the duo of “Konačna Ravnodnevica” tracks that close the album really drive home the range of moods and versatile riff-work that bolsters the musical value of ‘Pra Sila – Vukov Totem’ beyond its inspired themes.
For those perpetually on the hunt for the many different strokes of melodic black metal that place the riff above all else All My Sins will be one of the more powerful records of 2018. ‘Pra Sila – Vukov Totem’ cannot help but reek of its spirituality and this impressed me even more than the fantastically ripping guitar work that largely serves as All My Sin‘s central drive. It is difficult to recommend just one song on the piece as each shows a slightly different ambition or perspective ode. The opener “Vukov Totem” is an epic at nearly ten minutes and its thrashing start provides an excellent first impression yet the first single from the album (“Zov iz Magle”) has a grand progression that Hellenic black metal fans and pagan/black metal enthusiasts will fall out of their chair for. There is no weak entry point for the record and with this realization I can highly recommend the experience.
Ten thousand winters. 4.0/5.0
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