Something fell. – Under the door, the / juice appears – bloody; / and when the old / man has opened it, who will tell the fright! / There are two things in the blood – the / frost runs across the body in / horror: a / child’s head without a body / and a body without a head.” Karel Jaromír Erben, Vodník

Traditional Ukrainian spirituality views the world through a lens of all-encompassing animism, a spirited and uniquely characterized essence attached not only to the breathing and motion-bound entities of the natural world but also the craftsmanship of mankind — Their homes, their haunts and all manner of diabolic creation in idly twitching hands. Respect the lake beside your house, or fear its vodyanoy will drag and drown you for your carelessness. Acknowledge the mischief of the domovyk, else the ancestrally sourced protection they provide will fade along with your kin. Build a house without the correct tribute and see it burn or topple over. The occasionally trying upkeep of superstition has its practical purpose beyond mindfulness and valuation of a well-considered homestead, wherein one must acknowledge not only the duality of natural spirits as inherent projections of nature’s character but, also to explain the Gods’ raw apathy towards human existence. With this in mind we can consider the handicraft of Kyiv, Ukraine based black-thrashing metalpunk duo Merzotna Potvora, in presentation of their debut full-length ‘Halas z Pekla‘, as a seemingly unholy bout of caustic and malevolent energy reserving its own natural place in the world. There is no more fitting way to describe this half hour of sadistic speed metal wrath than pure mayhem as their manic riff conjure emits its feral radiation within every passing second yet the adrenaline paced wrack they’ve served arrives with personality, a clever projection of flawed and still-primitive humanity too well rounded and mischievous to be considered plain-assed evil.

Riffs, and the prioritization of attack above all else — The major reason to hitch onto what main songwriter and guitarist/bassist Oleksij Pominčuk is doing here on Merzotna Potvora‘s debut is his innate and well-honed riffcraft. This might be a bit of a surprise if you’d been familiar with the precursor solo incarnation of the project Koza Dereza, which’d been a place to throw around ideas since the early 2000’s but didn’t begin to bear any sort of publically released recordings until 2016 with the ‘Tut tobi j smerť‘ demo which’d been picked up by Depressive Illusions on tape at the time. Some posthumous releases, as well as a dungeon synth/dark ambient record, would come out of the project before he’d team up with vocalist Konstantin Oryol (Prah) in 2019 and release the well-received ‘Suča Maty‘ EP, impressing folks right off the bat with classicist high-speed thrash metal guitar work serving the brutal attack of black metal and the pre-grinding furor of Iron Curtain-era underground speed metal and metalpunk. Skanking hardcore beats, death-thrashing intensity and stripped raw double-paced black metal anthems defined their output to start and now reach a tighter, more ruthlessly aggressive extreme with ‘Halas z Pekla’ today.

The moment “Zdyčavila” leans into its first riff the right feeling kicks in, some nearly dead channel for endorphins directly linked to black/thrash metal guitar electricity beyond the norm activates and the true mayhemic punk spirit of the band lends its voice to a song that sounds as if it were the revival of a primitive speed metal band circa 1986; Hyper-thrashing at Nifelheim levels of bombast yet maintaining a stark naked 8-track level of simplicity in the recording itself. No artificial boosts or trendy guitar sounds, just screaming bloody thrash metal at an absurd pace. The songs themselves are structured very simply in the tradition of early German and Swedish mastery of dark speed metal craft and then taken to a black metal headspace a la early Törr, Bulldozer or if we can really hone in on the exact right comparison Flames (Greece) and their ‘Merciless Slaughter’ album. Both albums using pure metal riffing at extreme speeds and bringing a sort of homebrewed feeling with programmed drums and modest budget but, still pulling together something with inarguable enthusiasm and skill. We could pour over the details of formative Polish, Czech and Russian thrash metal which was recorded with limited means and even cut into the serious nod to early Razor the band give with their rendition of “City of Damnation” in Ukrainian as “Misto prokľatťa” but you’ll have gotten the idea by now, ‘old school’ is a fair term to use when referring to the quick-witted, razor sharp guitar work and classic black and thrash metal violence spirited into this record.

Wobbling and odd lead guitar melodies provide fanfare for the work the rhythm guitars have largely already done, spiking up as wild rants that scribble their hooks in odd time. This manages to match the manic energy of the vocals, more of a early Teutonic thrash snarl than a straight black metal rasp. I for sure respect any vocalist who is willing to puke to get his point across and this fellow manages some seriously long trains of thought despite this unhinged, seemingly off the cuff performance. “Domovyk” the the song that’d really exemplified the interplay between riffs, vocal cadence, and the trails of flailing, sometimes struggling leads. It was also the song that’d most reminded me of Quo Vadis‘ (Poland) early demos and somehow the occasional exaggerated Slayer-isms of ‘Ill-Natured Spiritual Invasion’ if reduced backwards in time. Anyhow, the album is easily digested in its ~33 minute state so there isn’t a wild need for description here beyond highlighting the major standout title track, Their reworking of an old Koza Dereza song, “Černeć”, and a bit more praise for their brutal Razor cover. Of course your results will vary, when it comes to extreme thrash I tend to go for the stuff that doesn’t abuse double-bass drumming, makes every riff count, hits upon some melody and has a personal touch; Though the recording/production for this record isn’t raw by any means the use of programmed drums might bother folks if you’re the type to notice at all, it didn’t factor into my experience at all. The sheer and unbridled energy of ‘Halas Z Pekla’ is what’d sold me on it basically from the first listen, the more their songwriting sank in the more I wanted to listen and the ease of a half hour black-thrash record hit me at just the right time. No question about it, this one deserves a high recommendation on my end for how much enthusiasm it breathes into such a well-worn format, doing so while using modest means. A high recommendation.

High recommendation. (84/100)

Rating: 8 out of 10.
TITLE:Halas Z Pekla
LABEL(S):Duplicate Records [CD]
RELEASE DATE:April 16th, 2021
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp [All Formats]
GENRE(S):Black/Thrash Metal,
Bestial Thrash Metal

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