Label: Bindrune Recordings
For all its violence and depravity, black metal can sometimes surprise in its ascendant qualities. Whilst the vast majority of bands may be content to simply record an album made up of black metal elements – blastbeats, tremolo picking, whirlwind riffs, and so on – every now and then, something comes along that doesn’t so much use those elements, but feels elemental. It’s quite remarkable when it happens, and a band are able to tap in to that sense of the deeply buried, the hidden, the other that lurks at the heart of the best black metal. Vukari have achieved just that on Divination, their debut for Bindrune Recordings. Forceful, transcendent, and incredibly captivating, this is an example of black metal at its very best.
Whilst the strain of black metal that Vukari play might not be as ground-breaking as it was a few years ago, they still manage to add something new and exciting to the mix of Cascadian and Eastern European atmospheric black metal that is so popular in the underground today. Whilst there are plenty of moments that offer windswept, frost-bitten atmosphere and majesty, along with the requisite darkness, there are also points where the band break free of any stylistic constraints, and do something different. “Invictus Maneo” is a prime example, with an almost post-metal first half that later gives way to excellent, forceful black metal. Also notable is the bass in this track, which doesn’t simply follow the rhythm, but adds some unsettling touches and movements, greatly enhancing the atmosphere of the track. It may never quite go in to wholly discordant territories, but it’s far more sinister and unsettling than black metal of this style tends to be. This is only enhanced by interlude track “Ad Delerium I”, with its dark ambient nature, which leads expertly in to the Fen-meets-Isis opening of “Ad Delerium II”, an atypically light and dexterous passage that still retains a dark heart.
The heart of Divination, though, is cold, haunting black metal, full of power and dark grace, albeit with a more adventurous spirit than most other albums. It’s the sort of album that, even at its most familiar, feels as if it is reaching for something, trying to transcribe ancient sigils in to something more understandable to human minds, tapping in to that mystical sense of power that characterises the best black metal. It is an album of restless searching, of dissatisfaction with what is offered, of knowing that more is out there, waiting to be found.
It’s at this point that it’s worth considering the concept of the record; a fictional tale of a lowly Roman, thirsting for power, being guided onwards by a mystical symbol that leads to his rise, but also fall. Understanding this is not needed to enjoy and appreciate Divination, but it does provide further evidence of the thought and attention Vukari have put in to the album.
There really is little to criticise Divination for. It is an excellent album, full of ideas and passion in a sub-genre that is often lacking in the former and fails to adequately display the later. Time spent with it only adds to my appreciation for its depth and scope, too; it’s not the kind of black metal album where initial excitement quickly fades away. There have been a lot of strong black metal releases this year, but Divination deserves to be recognised as among the best of them.