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Album Review: Malokarpatan - Krupinské ohne

Artist: Malokarpatan

Album: Krupinské Ohne

Genre: Folk/Black Metal

Review by Andrew Denning

This one certainly took me by surprise. I had to do some background checks and research on the roots of Malokarpatan to be able to review their third full length with any sense of decency. And my conclusion from all this research, is that this is a damn fine band we have here. I am weirdly partial to language barriers and as such chose to only enjoy the music in its native language without translation.

Not even two years following their previous EP release Cesta podzemnými sálami Kovovlada, the band have come back out of the gates swinging with a genre-bending soundscape that is as grand as it is subtle. Clocking in across 5 tracks and almost 50 minutes, you can see the kind of affair we are getting into here. The black metal roots alone show in this format, Malokarpatan made no compromises in making sure each song was crafted ideally to their desires. Time to dive in a little deeper.

Krupinské Ohne starts on an offbeat note of classical symphony and choir chanting, almost catching you off guard with its deep yet soft melody. This softness does not last as the choir gives way to dissonant guitar picking reminiscent of early black metal artists such as Darkthrone. Roughly 3 minutes in V brezových hájech poblíž Babinej zjavoval sa nám podsvetný velmož begins proper, revealing excellent mix work done on the part of the recording engineer. Guitars; both acoustic and distorted, drums, bass and more chanting vocals manage to all stay audible in the mix. Black metal is known to sacrifice the tone of some instruments for the sake of "aesthetic" or "purity" but this is not the case here, and I couldn't be happier. There is a standout here with a layering of dual vocals, both clean chants and traditional black metal screaming that is also pulled off with brilliant execution. A powerful start to this release.

I had almost settled into a comfortable state to cruise through the rest of this release, until midway through the second track Ze semena viselcuov čarovný koren povstáva presented itself. The realisation hit, Malokarpatan wasted no space in this 50-minute behemoth. The thrash influenced guitar riffs given way to a bizarre synth and acoustic section that almost felt whimsical amidst the chaos. I was rather taken aback by this, though after a few bars of it I found myself grooving along with the strangeness. The harsh guitars bleed back in and its business as usual for the rest of the track. More excellent mixing in the outro section on the synth work too.

Said synth work fades into the third offering, complete with steel drum beat build-ups. I was excited, though sadly this is one of the few low points of the album. The song begins proper around the minute mark and almost sounds like half a bar got cut of the recording stems, or the guitar riff itself starts on an uncomfortable note. Minor gripe but in such a good release, it really stuck out to me. Embracing Na černém kuoni sme lítali firmamentem as it stands following the intro, it is built fairly similar to its predecessor. The wacky synths return mid-song once again to dance along to only to return to harsh black metal for the second half. If there had to be a "weakest point" of the album, it would definitely be here.

For a change of pace, we are greeted with descending synths, acoustic guitar and marching band style drum rolling for the intro to Filipojakubská noc na Štangarígelských skalách. The acoustic guitar, and I cannot say this enough, has been used so tastefully in this release and kept alive in the mix so clearly. It's so good to hear a decent acoustic guitar in such a solid release. This intro doesn't hang around as long as I'd like but is pleasant nonetheless. The pace of the guitars has been brought up for this number, dissonant chords ringing out beautifully behind more well timed vocals and light synth sliding, though the synths could have been a touch more prominent here. Stand out moment goes to the guitar solo outro fading perfectly into folk instruments akin to the start of our journey. Though we aren't finished just yet.

The final piece of the offering, Krupinské ohne poštyrikráte teho roku vzplanuli, opens with a clean section that my brain immediately tried to tell me was Agalloch. Being one of my favourite artists, the influence being found here had me very excited to here this track. The motif being played follows into the black metal influenced sections of this track also, leading to a more cohesive writing style than the rest of the album. The use of chanting returns quite strongly in this final song, used in different levels of aggression. Some are used softly in the intro; others even assist the ferocity of the lead vocal work. Krupinské ohne poštyrikráte teho roku vzplanuli is most certainly the high point of this release for me, showcasing Malokarpatan and their seamless blend of folk and black metal while adding their own twist to it.

I was not ready for the journey Krupinské Ohne has taken me on, and the band has joined the rotation of folk/black metal I frequent such as Pillorian, Agalloch, Oak and so much more. This release is an absolute standout for the year so far. A few small moments of grey but overall, a shining diamond in the rough that definitely deserves to be heard by more people.

Rating: 9 out of 10.

Krupinské Ohne will be releasing through Invictus Productions March 20th, 2020.

Digital pre-orders available here: https://invictusproductions666.bandcamp.com/album/krupinsk-ohne

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