The lead curtain falls upon the chorus mid-strophe, a wailing ode shocked from their mouths into guttural suffocating cries as the crowd disperses. Screaming, compelled to shove and stomp aside their peers as the deafening hiss of the theatre afire crackles in ear the societal animal reveals its true impoverished state as a grotesquely gilded husk in its efforts to survive. — Choking on the first fly-ash of impending collapse the abstract bitterness of this third full-length from Poznań, Poland-based black metal quartet Profeci is potent yet impatient to burn through its flurry of high-minded ideas, a highly intelligent form of modern black metal which seats itself in serious congress with vexation and hardship for the sake of knowledge gained. ‘Ubóstwo‘ is brief yet listless to a severe, affecting degree as the philosophical idiom of the troupe turns to destitution as muse for their critical think tank, finding fortitude and sorrow amidst the fragility of civilization creaking overhead.
Profeci formed circa 2018 and there isn’t much else to know in terms of information on the band provided, though certain compositions choices already suggest as much their bassist has featured in some experimental rock groups, otherwise they all seem to be capable live performers. Though it will take some shaky auto-translation to reveal and Polish prose has its own unique depth of irony and darkness it should become clear enough in exploring this band’s discography that they tend to concern themselves with a philosophical muse which themes each album, rendering the mood thoughtful yet obscure but never plainly escapist. They achieve this feeling through a form of semi-progressive or avant-garde black metal influence voicing which is most often described as variously confrontational and emotionally evocative. This seems at least tangentially related to inspiration taken from modern (as in, post-2010) Polish black metal ideals, a sound which is less dissonant/mathematical than Gorycz, less exaggerative/brutal compared to Medico Peste, and probably primed to impress fans of Odraza‘s polished atmospheric movement of late. You won’t get much help in describing their likeness if you aren’t deeply interested in Polish black metal’s more refined underground, but if you are at least familiar with the unpredictable yet always involved mindset of mid-2010’s Furia, a decidedly modern and somewhat challenging thought on black metal, then this group will be comfortable enough to approach.
From most available angles it seems that Profeci‘s purpose is at war with determinism in the face of societal woes, emphasizing hardship and existential dread for their most erratic and explosive works. Their performances appear most alive when parsing life’s most difficult conundrums and challenges yet these are communicated in abstract ways and sometimes with a more personal voice, focused as a point of character but willing to shake loose into many unexpected tangents. Beyond that point of authorship there is likewise a touting of critical thought within their lyrics which accentuates the gracefully obscurant phrasing of their music as a thought outside the norm, a step away from the usual stream of consciousness which, to me, feels both rooted in and in defiance of romanticist philosophies. They’d just as well been figuring all of this out still on their debut full-length (‘Matecznik‘, 2020) a mid-paced, pensive record which was succinct, abstract and came with a decidedly professional recording/render from Satanic Audio who’ve been a point of brilliancy on each of their three records to date. ‘Ubóstwo‘ benefits from the band’s high standards in all of the same ways the previous two releases from the band had, tightening their craft to its most pure and easily repeated statement.
Most folks first noticed these folks when their second album (‘Aporia‘, 2021) released as a bit of an unlikely surprise bout of depth. A rhetorical confrontation as much as it was a staggering avant-lite black metal record the vocalist’s work began taking a more prominent placement in not only the mix but also managed to take charge of a few pieces for the sake of the theme. I’d found that record particularly engaging, overwhelming and in a language I don’t know quite well enough to connect with (beyond old and dark speed metal record lyrics) yet it’d proven absorbing, immersive and quite a bit more boldly stated than Profeci‘s debut. Without a doubt that second album went places, stirring and estranged work which has only improved with time and distance; Though I wouldn’t go as far as considering past work as entirely essential provenance in order to approach ‘Ubóstwo‘ it certainly will help to observe an aura of consistency which runs through all of their work.
“Stare stworzenia” opens the album with a few imposing strikes, introductory swipes at the shape of the ensuing melody which quickly arrives as the centerpiece of its main verses. This is not a decidedly brutal moment but certainly one of the most active and aggressive points on the full listen and where we find the semi-melodic movements of the band refined but not so deeply derivative in the typical way. The melodic lead guitar voicing of that first piece continues just beyond the opener for the introduction and development of the second piece, “Jaskinie”, which otherwise develops its own direction. I’d found this first pair of songs introduced the album in a very effective way, minding the separation of events while creating a strong sense of flow between the two. A tragic, depressive feeling begins to seep into the narrative at this point and the picture of ‘Ubóstwo‘ begins to paint itself tarnished, downtrodden to a deeper degree than the two records prior.
We consider the greater good, the collective will on “Jedność wielości” and this is where the album strays from a known voice to a handful of unexpected turns. While I wouldn’t suggest there are post-metal turns taken here this is certainly a modern use of rock guitar techniques and dissonant progressions alongside some of the best vocal arrangements/layering available to the album as well as a very clear bass guitar presence. Without going over-the-top there is a “fresh”, appreciably unique moment that arises in the second half of the piece which certainly isn’t weird for the sake of weird but still feels like an avant-garde stroke for the album. Of course the final seconds of the song distracted me to no end with a section of a melody which sounds like the one played at the Frenzied Flame Proscription.
The sole preview song taken from the promotion of the album, “Głód“, recalls the best moments of Furia‘s ‘Nocel‘ to some degree, an excellent example of the nuanced yet free-sweeping rhythms available to the band as well as a piece which upholds the tragedian verve of the record. From there the band sinks beautifully into the sombre frustration of “Bez niej byłbym niczym” (“Without her I am nothing”, more-or-less) making for one of the stronger paired moments (with “Głód”) on the full listen. The clean vocals on this song are exceptional in their intensity, delivered distraught and angered at this key moment in the full listen.
Since the LP is fairly short at just ~33 minutes the way each piece either relates to, or, picks up upon an additive vibe in relation to the last helps to immerse the mind as quickly as possible and yields a pretty natural re-spin value overall. All things come with a severe economy of space on ‘Ubóstwo‘ and it always seems like there isn’t a minute to waste within their compositions, at least nothing is left to detract from the focus of the experience. Upon reflection and in hindsight I’d found ‘Aporia‘ more immersive as a longer overall experience yet ‘Ubóstwo‘ manages an equally profound statement nonetheless, a not-so subtle devastation. I’d be interested to know how those who’d described the quite frustrated, charged atmosphere of Profeci’s second album as emotional might respond to the sullen yet clearly inspired push of this third. Otherwise I suppose this is a record for folks interested in the more sincere, intelligent and thoughtfully crafted side of modern Polish black metal who’d just as well skip over the bloated quirk and aimlessly wandering moments available to nowadays post-black adjacent craft and get right to the impact of each piece. It’d stood out quite a bit to me and continues to enrich upon repeat listens. A high recommendation.
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