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The Tenebrous Journey (split with Bladesmith)

The Tenebrous Journey could not be a more fitting name for this album. Tenebrous is an Italian word for "darkness," and it is with little irony that both Bladesmith and Ohvrikivi play their own personal brands of black metal. As for the "journey" part of things, it is important to note the amount of wanderlust and displacement both bands have experienced. Bladesmith, the creation of one Erik Wray, has been displaced from his original Canadian home and ended up in the wilds of Finland. In even greater contrast stands the project of Ohvrikivi; fronted by the enigmatic Berg, Ohriviki can trace its esoteric roots to Estonia and has since immigrated to the more urbanized locale of England. These two converging paths may seem at first glance to have little in common, but the fact remains that The Tenebrous Journey undertaken by both Bladesmith and Ohvrikivi could not have been traveled alone. Brought together by a mutual love of European heritage, ancestral pride, and a warrior´s ethos, the two bands provide takes on the European template simultaneously original yet bonded in blood.
Of the two, Ohvrikivi possesses the more eldritch of sounds. The riffs are primitive, the percussion tribal, and the vocals shamanistic; Ohvrikivi are prayers to ancient deities for death and blood in honorable, brutal battles. As the sole member of the band, the heat is on for Berg to perform and thankfully he leads Ohvrikivi with immense talent. The band´s first track, "Tuhast Tijus," displays a primitive take on the genre of black metal. The drums are simplistic pounding, the kind of thuds expected from savages beating on flayed animal skins. This ritualistic backdrop sets the stage for the dominant force behind Ohvrikivi, that which is the band´s riffs. Berg spews marching battle riffs, so confident in their rusty swagger that it will recall Isengard as much as Black Sabbath and Bathory. "Mu Langenud Vennad" quietly shuffles through winding forest paths of immense age. The guitar tones are fuzzy, dirty, and old; their steady pulse of filth equals parts squalor and splendor. By now it is apparent that Ohvrikivi maintains a sort of punk aesthetic to their sound, best reflected in the breezy sloppiness inherent in the music itself. Closing things is the fiery "Through the Forest," a militant blitzkrieg every bit as much Motorhead as it is Darkthrone. Lo-fi, fast, and rocking, "Forest" is just the flash-fire of gasoline in wood-brush the split needs at its end.
That isn´t to say that the Bladesmith portion lags at all; in fact, Finland´s tribal warlord often steals the show. Opening call-to-arms "Conquerors of the Barbican" is an instantly memorable tune. Dirty riffs and clanging, mechanical percussion mix with lo-fi war horns, their buzzing menace coalescing into a shifting pool of inky darkness. This hypnotic sword-stroke is epic, primitive black metal, a mix of Burzum and Graveland perhaps. Erik Wray possesses raspy crow vocals, the kind of spittle-flecked madness few people can do nowadays. Masterful in his composition, he adds choirs of mournful moans and blistering tremolo-leads to the procession, making the song that much more brutal and grand at the same time. "In the Wake of Darkness I Shall Rise" is a cold, churning maelstrom. Out of this spiraling vortex there often emerges a hint of dismal melodies, like the prayers of the damned in Hell. The last Bladesmith track is the masterful "Torn Asunder by Revenge," easily the most majestic Wray has penned in the entire Bladesmith back-catalog. Pounding, shiny riffs flow quietly through a sea of intense groans and tortured, howling vocals. Subtle, ghostly melodies drift through it all, and the esoteric percussion invokes Burzum due to its hollow ambience and detached, mechanical nature. Epic and swollen with despair, this frigid ode to vengeance lingers long after the closing notes.
It has been said that war fosters brotherhood, and The Tenebrous Journey is no exception. Ohvrikivi sounds older, rawer, and much more ferocious, but Bladesmith´s stark contrast of slow, bleak, and epic BM provides a solid counterpoint. Both bands craft lasting impressions, the likes of which play to their strengths. Ohvrikivi seemingly excel at brawling, animalistic rampages, so punkier BM fans will dig their side of the split. For everyone else, Bladesmith´s rousing tunes reek of underground royalty. Both brothers-in-arms provide atmosphere-drenched cavalry charges through Pagan-worshipping warfare, and it is highly recommended that BM pleasure-seekers check this split album out.

Zine: Anti Music

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