As a distraught widow wished her vain and promiscuous daughter L’ubka some measure of wit and taste in choosing a suitor, her nightly prayers would seemingly conjure the lord of the underworld Kovovlad to take her as his bride. L’ubka would dream of a shining fiscal savior beforehand and with his insistent arrival as ‘lord of the mines’ she rushed to take his hand and he to immortalize her torment. The most striking part of this fable is the description of the wedding party and their flight towards the underworld across the land down to the abyss where iron bridge lead to crystal castle where a great feast was prepared. Realizing her curse as she was served food made of precious stones and ore, L’ubka would sour into misery. For having sold herself with desperation for greatness and riches only to realize vanity and greed lead to even more profound sorrow and loneliness. If you don’t mind my slightly wrong paraphrasing of Dobšinský Pavol‘s writing, the parable is clear in message but the imagery conjured by the trip to the underworld is perhaps more exciting. This is more or less what Bratislava, Slovakia based ancient black metal band Malokarpatan have focused on in penning this ‘journey to the underground halls’ of Kovovlada, Kovovlad’s crystalline palace. Across two pieces and roughly eleven minutes they first illustrate the atmosphere of the storied mystic caves and narrate the resplendent horror of captivity in the underworld.
Originally self-released digitally in 2018 and now receiving a 400 copy 7″ vinyl run on Sun & Moon Records ‘Cesta podzemnými sálami Kovovlada’ is a certain departure from what most would’ve expected from Malokarpatan coming off of the speed/heavy metal tinged first wave black metal of their well received second full-length ‘Nordkarpatenland’ (2017). For that album I’d felt the major references centered around Root, Bifrost, Bulldozer and a hint of Bathory‘s shift from ‘The Return…’ towards their earliest opus. Folkish and cognizant of dark speed metal, it was an earthen sort of black metal album that I still appreciate. Here on this EP they’ve invoked the depths of the underworld and the treasure-lined hell that this Hades-esque being inhabits and in doing so the horrors of early Samael and Master’s Hammer are invoked for the sake of atmospheric doom and dread. My mind immediately goes to Black Crucifixion‘s ‘The Fallen one of the Flames’ demo both for the intro and the groove-driven majesty of that most superior version of “Flowing Downwards”; These are nearly fitting analogues for what Malokarpatan have done here, though their atmospheric intro aims for horror rather than gothic regalia and their blackened doom riffs are a bit more Varathron and less Tiamat in style.
I appreciate the range of natural and unnatural sounds used for “I” and I feel the track adds something unexpected and almost ’94 Abruptum-esque to the EP. Though I am still a braindead ‘metal’ idiot and found myself gravitating towards the guitar work on “II” above all else and left the second piece on repeat as I became more familiar with the full listen. What interests me most about this EP is what new direction it signals for Malokarpatan as their concepts change, their style grows in various directions, and the inevitable third album impends. For anyone already familiar with the band I think it at least suggests a strong grasp of mid-paced Hellenic/eastern European early second wave black metal, which is exciting for my own taste. I’d largely recommend it because it is something different and unexpected for the band, but also simply because the two pieces are appropriate narrative for the parable they’ve referenced in the lyrics. Highly recommended, though largely to those predispositioned to the specific style of black metal within.
One copper, the other silver and the third gold. 4.0/5.0
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