Vorkuta - Into the Chasms of Lunacy
Paragon Records
Ambient Black Metal
6 songs (36'20")
Release year: 2007
Paragon Records
Reviewed by Alex

Staying inside Hungary in this week of reviews, the next on display are purveyors of ambient black metal Vorkuta. Continuing with the geographical tangent, it would be interesting to note that this young band (Into the Chasms of Lunacy is the band’s first full-length after a series of demos and splits) is apparently completely aware of what their moniker represents. Vorkuta is a town above Arctic Circle in Russian Federation where a lot of Stalin’s concentration camps were concentrated starting in the 1930s. A place for mass killings, the name of the town was very much synonymous with “abyss” in Russia as not many came back alive from there. Vorkuta abandoned their old name (Fjord) seeing that the reminder of the mass genocide perpetuated by Stalinists on their own people would describe their music better.

Even though Vorkuta does not stick to strictly straight ahead punishing raw black metal assault, they keep their truer black songs away from their ambient compositions, never really integrating the two directions, perhaps by design. Warriors of Past is a short harrowing ritualistic opener, finding room for a quick lead, before Gargoyle starts blasting away. Blastbeats or not, the guitar sound on Gargoyle, and later on Vorkuta the song, is rather unusual. Aside from the raw ugliness it has this brooding, searching, slightly dissonant feel, giving a total sense of hopelessness, what all those unjustly convicted people must have felt in the camps. Buzzing and drilling lead of Vorkuta is pure night and desperation setting in. On the other hand, My Flaming Soul is very much a standard blackened thrash affair, smacking the cymbals and floating in some undercurrent melody while extolling praise to Darkthrone. Blizzard on vocals emanates some tortured hisses, or screams from the bottom of the well at the end of Gargoyle, but Vorkuta’s vocals are certainly not called for to make a show of themselves, the emphasis being on the overall atmosphere.

Stardust and Within the Fortress of Melancholia are quite lengthy ambient pieces, glimmering and shimmering with synth effects, better be listened to at dusk. Bells sounding as if falling stars and windchimes signaling mild hypothermia setting in, both songs do well to depict Northern wilderness, characterized by endless sky and frozen terrain, but develop little, with 6-7 min length being a little redundant for both. However, the originality drive on the Vorkuta part is there and to be commendable.

When I was 11 I had a chance to travel in Arkhangelsk region, below the Arctic Circle, and a little West and South of Vorkuta, but still the place the Stalin regime found suitable to situate some concentration camps. I once seen a canal the convicts had to dig connecting Kuloi and Pinega rivers. The natives told us that the bottom and the walls of that canal are lined with the bones of the dead. Interestingly enough, the camp and construction site were not guarded. Once dropped off at the location, the convicts could not have escaped without food and special equipment traveling hundreds of miles through thick mosquito and wild animals infested taiga forest to reach Russian “mainland”. Brutal is the only word that comes to mind. Having said that, Vorkuta must have been thousand times worse.

Killing Songs :
Stardust, Vorkuta
Alex quoted 68 / 100
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