STANGARIGEL – Na Severe Srdca (2022)REVIEW

Zhotuj dušu k odchodu! — kto mi to povedá?“ / Chce ruku hor’ zodvihnúť, ale sa mu nedá. / A hlas jeden preletí zimným víchrom cezeň: / „Bols’, Jánošík, voľný, pán; ale si už väzeň!“ Ján Botto, Smrť Jánošíkova.

In the northern reaches of the heart… well, that sounds a bit more sentimental than I’m willing to get here but at least within the very spirited soul of Western Slavic folkloric naturalistic melody-making Bratislava, Slovakia-based duo Stangarigel brew a heaping cauldron full of mid-to-late second wave black metal inspired atmosphere in creation of their debut full-length ‘Na Severe Srdca‘. A plot of wildering fables and breathtaking mythos, this passion project from guitarist/bassist Lesodiv, whom is best known as key songwriter and guitarist for renowned black/heavy metal band Malokarpatan, arrives in a state wherein there’ll be no escaping the artist’s distinct flourish and knack for ancient black metal with a forest-borne spirit. When teamed with vocalist/drummer Stalagnat (whom I believe is kin to Lesodiv) their efforts are successfully transformative, transporting the ear to another time and place with a strong voice that walks us off the ledge of plainest nostalgia-bent daze and unto an intense yearning for hand-hewn purpose by way of thoughtful craftsmanship; That which’d made connections between ancestral muse and individualism in conjure is yet worth revisiting and perfecting in creation of worlds rather than dissolving the ‘self’ within cheap death’s spectacle. Suffice to say this is black metal music meant to inspire the will and thrill the soulful aspect of the mind rather than destroy it.

There is a rarely traversed divide between the five or so basic spiritual-intellectual notions of 19th century Romanticism and the broad range of early 90’s black metal that used, or often feigned, this mindset to create high fantasy/folkloric works and in this sense the lineage of accomplishments comparable to ‘Bergtatt‘ and ‘The Shadowthrone‘ are usually far from snuff. Gathering the spirit of these great works is largely the goal here but these tentpoles provide only somewhat appropriate musical guidance via symbolic era-specific works, directing us to the right mindset while simultaneously missing the mark as to what ‘Na Severe Srdca‘ actually is in terms of its practical composition and melodic shaping. Though their debut record naturally speaks to the later 90’s sphere of lush and bombastic influence beyond aforementioned black/folk metal popular impetus, Stangarigel‘s approach is yet steeped in the appropriate naturalistic awe, or, similarly rooted in painterly European folk music revivalist movements of the last several decades. This should prompt listeners to set down their remastered copy of ‘For All Tid‘ and cut the comparison at this point, it only shows a lack of fundamental engagement beyond aesthetics. Instead the style in question manifests much in the same way Ancient‘s ‘Svartalvheim‘ and brilliant follow-up EP ‘Trolltaar‘ had around that same time period, albeit Stangarigel‘s approach is far more patient and set within the regal, stoutly unfolding phrases of Slavic folk melody. From that general point of ingress we could explore early 2000’s Graveland to some degree for some additional chivalrous melodic ideals and take some detours to the first Negură Bunget and Moonsorrow records (‘Tämä Ikuinen Talvi‘ in particular) for extra-contextual use of unique melodic devices and their extended ethnic folk muso modulation in the late 90’s; Examples of similarly influenced acts beyond that point might press too far in tangent away from what Stangarigel‘s elder spirit intends to pull from the chest of the listener: A wonderment felt and majesty observed when the mind is reclaimed by the beauty of the natural world.

Though I could write leagues of letters on just how often the essence of ‘Bergtatt‘ is splayed and examined as a potential mine for emotionally connective dark music there are few records which actually capture the redolent air of its movement and voice when it comes time to logically insert ones own heritage sounds into the archetype. This is arguably where Stangarigel benefit from a strong sense of self as they pull from well-developed Slovakian expression, alongside signature use of a variety of progressions, and set their own glowing pace. Though this might not be readily apparent when the introduction ‘Na Severe Srdca‘ presents itself with leads with something a bit Falkenbach flavored as the acoustic guitar that plucks open “Mytogenéza bronzovej doby” arrives with a bit of extra potent folk metallic nostalgia for my own taste; This’d largely begin to melt away as the gilded chimes and fast-whirring tremolo streams began to pour beyond the ninety second mark yet in practical and most objective terms the first dip into ‘Na Severe Srdca‘ should likely read as the high taste level of this fellow from Malokarpatan finding a very personal rhythm within early days black/folk metal. To be fair that is as complicated as one’s thought process should generally be before clipping their spinal cord and immersing. The blissfully waltzing multi-tiered reveals of classical guitar warmed (and likely writ) pieces like “Zasvätenie v slnovratnej hore” nonetheless deserve some examination of construct, less so for their staging and layers and more for their desirous effect which only intensifies with time. The larger implication here is that the great success of Stangarigel‘s debut is that it provides enough of its own memorably enchanted world to meet up with the suggested goal of the artist, avoiding the faceless tendency of sub-genre entry black/folk metal whim while still arriving upon the recognizable stylistic odes intended.

We are not coursing, blazing or striking upon war’s heated iron within these meandering explorations but cresting jagged hills and taking deep breaths of appreciation just long enough ‘fore the momentum of the traveler’s leg begins to itch for the next shadowy glade and his ear tick at the sound of undiscovered springs — ‘Na Severe Srdca‘ is yet an epic scaled journey even if its lens is set to panoramic view and constantly whirling in full view of nature’s majestic offer, and in this sense it is very much a high fantasy heavy metal undertaking, at least moreso than it is a plain exploration of folk musical applications to black metal. Each of these six songs appear to depict bronze age Slavic myth and/or fables with most including some reference to natural areas, such as the Tatra mountains, and even if the language itself isn’t particularly decipherable to most by way of any reliable translation Stangarigel arrives expressive enough to convey an easily read feeling of mythic wonderment within ancient European civilization. Reverb tumbled atmospheric warmth lends itself to the main voicing of the instruments, most prominent of those featured is the guitar tracks though the keyboard/synth and drum performances often rise as director just as one’d expect from folk rock paced music. Vocals are narrative but generally not there to provide any certain melodic device, rasping from the shadows and often featuring light use of effects in subtle layer. “Hviezdne ohne nad kosodrevinami” more or less provides the gamut of this reach and “Smaragdová koruna diabla” gives us the dramatic peak of said scope, lightning crashes and all — These being the two most memorable pieces for my own taste which likewise communicate the greater modus of ‘Na Severe Srdca‘ in a sizable nutshell.

Point made well enough, then. By aiming for a certain level of folk music application and romanticist mindset entertained by just a few choice artists during the second wave of black metal this Slovakian project capitalize upon inspired foil, enriching their already strong musical character within six finely detail epics. Or, in the simplest of terms — A memorable, warming and finely crafted black/folk metal album that will soon imprint itself upon the mind and ease the flesh into imaginative realm. A very high recommendation.

Very high recommendation. (85/100)

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.
TITLE:Na Severe Srdca
LABEL(S):Into the Night Records
RELEASE DATE:January 7th, 2022

Help Support Grizzly Butts’ goals with a donation:

Please consider donating directly to site costs and project funding using PayPal.