This just shows how much I am out of touch with what is happening in Russia. In a recent IM conversation with one of my virtual friends, who also happens to be a metal fan and even runs a site of his own, the subject of Tvangeste came up. My friend, who knows bandleader and vocalist Miron Chirva, asked me whether I have heard of Tvangeste who has been recently recognized as one of the best black metal bands in Russia. Much to my dismay I haven’t, so as soon as our conversation was over I ordered myself a copy of their latest album Firestorm. Having told you this story, please, do not dismiss this review as a homey pick. Tvangeste is well worth your attention if symphonic metal with extreme vocals falls under the genre description you are interested in.
The black metal purists will come out of the woodwork claiming Firestorm has nothing to do with black metal. There is no raw production, no frozen atmospheres, no tremolo picking. Technically, the “experts” would be right. Labels be damned, however, Firestorm is an excellent album combining Therion-like symphonic structures, classical music flare, striking melodies, chamber choir and Cradle of Filthian vocals. If the last detail does not cause an allergic reaction, you may calmly proceed with Firestorm, I guarantee you will enjoy it, just like I did.
There is no question Miron Chirva often sounds like Dani Filth. His voice shrieks, hisses, squeals, barks and vomits all at the same time. As if grabbed by the throat, Miron manages to spew emotion by the buckets. If you think Dani is hysterical, you will think the same of Miron. Then again, Tvangeste is incomparably more inspired than Cradle of Filth. The Brits may, in fact, look to these Prussian guys for ideas and the muse. Tvangeste symphonic parts are simply riveting. It is breathtaking how guitars and the full-blown Baltic Symphonic Orchestra can riff in the same synchronized fashion. There is some violent and unrestrained Beethoven in this emotional tornado (Perkuno’s Flame, Storm). At the same time Tvangeste is not formulaic, not slowing down for female vocals, choirs or beautiful violin. The band is not afraid to take these instruments and batter them against aggressive rhythms (Birth of the Hero). Heroic choruses (Tears Will Wash off the Blood from My Sword, Perkuno’s Flame) or symphonic intros (Storm) Tvangeste’s melodies easily stir emotions and bring out the sense of national pride.
If I had a small complaint it would be the drumming. No doubt guest drummer Cezar Mielko is technically proficient. Maybe even overly so as he provides heaps of trigger happy, but lifeless, double bass and blasts which alternate quite regularly. Just like the latest Dimmu Borgir drumming performances by Nick Barker, these are powerful kicks and they propel the songs along, but all coming in at the same tone and power, devoid of fills and rolls, they do not add, but only subtract from this emotional album. Why such drumming is better or different than a computer drum machine I will never know.
Firestorm production is very clean, modern and quite commercial. In a good sense of this word as raw fuzz would have destroyed the music. Cradle of Filth is commercial too, so they can appeal to many and collect a few $$ along the way. Tvangeste needs clarity and polish to bring out the symphonic elements, professional opera singers and violin players.
It is the history of Prussia that inspires Tvangeste and makes them unique in a sense. The band has a very strong pagan stance, the whole album dedicated to the struggle between Christians and native pagan people of Prussia. Please, do not confuse Russia and Prussia, the latter being a small swath of land by the Baltic Sea nestled in between Poland, Latvia and Lithuania. The name Tvangeste comes from the name of the old Prussian dwelling, razed and overtaken by the invaders in 1255. While the band is coming out against all judeochristian philosophy and religion in general, it has to be mentioned that it was Germanic knights of the Teutonic Order who sacked Tvangeste and founded Konigsberg (Kingstown, future Soviet Kaliningrad) in its place. Using Christianity as an excuse for a land grab, those German knights burned many Pagans, Jews and Christians altogether. In fact, had they not been stopped by another Christian, Grand Duke of Novgorod Alexander Nevski, a few years prior (1242) at Tsjud-Lake, a lot of Northern Russia may have shared the fate of poor Tvangeste.
When moved by the subjects close to one’s heart, a human being can generally create powerful objects of art. Tvangeste were certainly inspired, and Firestorm is a testament to that.
Killing Songs :
Birth of the Hero, Fire in Our Hearts, Perkuno's Flame (!!), Godless Freedom, Storm
|Alex quoted 85 / 100|
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