Zgard - Place of Power
Schwarzdorn Productions
Atmospheric Black Metal
8 songs (47'36")
Release year: 2021
Reviewed by Alex

After reviewing a pair of Ukrainian Zgard albums Contemplation and Totem I have missed Within the Swirl of Black Vigor and Zgard apparently leaving Svarga Music, the label from which I reviewed many releases. Honestly though, Totem was not the album from Zgard I liked as much as Contemplation as Yaromisl took the band into the direction of more intense and less personal black metal.

On Place of Power Zgard still plays what can be called atmospheric black metal, of Ukrainian school, but whereas bands like Munruthel, Khors or Paganland seem to move into the direction of craft more polished and accessible, Zgard proceeds on the countervailing course. After Arise, which is a rising creaking wheel of time, Trap of Cold announces Zgard circa 2021 with edgy, very cutting guitar sound and hysteria inducing screaming vocals. If you are looking for old folky atmospheres, you will have to look hard. More listens will be needed to capture the nuance, present on Place of Power, but definitely not easy to find. Old Ruins may have a more immediate, easier to grasp melodic opening, but blast returns and very singular high screaming and screeching voice continues. There are some choral layers here, and there are keyboards in the end contributing to mysteries Zgard is trying to depict. The distinguishing Ukrainian sopilka seems to be forgotten and I haven’t heard it until some time closer to the album's end inLast Harvest. Instead you get a slower, steady, but samey and ever more grinding Ascension Fog, which has some moments of melodic groove; The Fiendmother which starts almost doomy but then picks up speed; faster and more rabid title track and thrashy black’n’roll Last Harvest with an ever so slight synth touch. These tracks can be explosive (Last Harvest) or dragging (Ascension Fog, The Fiendmother), but almost always abrasive, without any effort to take the edge off. Gritty screams, processed to create the impression that they are echoing and carrying on longer than humanly possible, are a theme throughout as well. There is hardly a positive ambiance emanating from Place of Power, but instead the album is a prayer at the KAPICHSE of the old angry and decidedly pagan god. Unnamed perhaps, and certainly not pleased with humanity. This is nature, but not at its most pleasant and forgiving. Nothing is gentle on the album until the closer Thaw rolls through, with its sound of shy spring brook breaking through the piles of ice and snow. The spring is around the corner and female voice beckons, so hope is in the air, while it is nowhere to be found in many preceding proceedings on Place of Power.

I am still fixated on earlier Zgard, so it may cloud my judgment, but Place of Power is further into the direction I didn’t imagine the band to go into, so my fandom from almost a decade ago is beginning to fade.

Killing Songs :
Old Ruins, Last Harvest
Alex quoted 70 / 100
Other albums by Zgard that we have reviewed:
Zgard - Totem reviewed by Alex and quoted 73 / 100
Zgard - Contemplation reviewed by Alex and quoted 84 / 100
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