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Petrychor - Effigies and Epitaphs/Dryad [Khrysanthoney - 2011]

Petrychor is the new one man sonic project from Tad Piecka (Carbonscape/Beware of Safety)…presented on this double disc album from the Khrysanthoney stable, is the debut album bundled together with the projects demo release ‘Dryad’. The release is a bit of a difficult beast to get to grips with, drawing in equal amounts from a variety of styles, but mainly focusing on Black Metal influences combined with deeply rich elements of folk and neo-classical music. That is the easiest way to ‘pigeonhole’ this record, for the purposes of a brief overview, but the overall content goes way deeper, challenging your preconceptions at every turn.

Kicking off with the debut album ‘Effigies and Epitaphs’, Pieka brings to the table a whole bunch of strangely juxtaposed aesthetics which immediately put you on the back foot. Sheer beauty is expressed through the opener, swirls of glittering ambience and angelic choral vocals building upon the carefree and dreamlike vibes, bringing with it a deep sense of earthly kinship, almost pagan in tone. The reality could be way off the mark as far as the artist’s initial ideologies are concerned, but it definitely leaves that impression, personally speaking of course. The second piece starts with calm and melodic acoustic guitar before the traditional BM buzz-saw guitar sound drops, accompanied by wall to wall blastbeats. The effect is quite disorientating, what should be bleak and devastating is almost stunningly sublime and tranquil, playing on post-rock sensibilities, the whole track blending into a kind of warm fuzz that is strangely endearing.

The acoustic guitar breakdowns and post-black metal formulae carries through the next two tracks, rendering them hypnotic but feeling a little underwhelming (albeit not bad in any respect) until we get to the end sequence of ‘Subjugated and Abused’. The track builds from the start, before increasing in intensity, almost whiting out behind a wall of distortion and then dropping you into drones and more vocal chanting, transporting the album to darker territories. ‘Seared and Sundered’ hugely bolsters that fact and breaks through with the most vicious track on the album, harsh vocals and a virtual maelstrom of guitars and drums batter you into submission, before the track drops out abruptly back to acoustic guitar, leaving you feeling a little bewildered. The last track is epic in proportion and really borrows heavily from the original wave of early black metal, a solid lead riff dragging you back to a time when all this tomfoolery sounded fresh and dangerous, which is great, especially at a time like this when so many bands of this ilk feel a bit like a parody within a parody.

The demo material digs a little bit deeper into folk territory, of course the main body of the black metal beast is still present, but everything else is a little more subdued compared to the full length effort. This is a good thing of course and adds to the variety of the complete double set…it also serves as a reminder that crossing various musical paths and serving them with a twist can work and work well. Highly recommended, especially with the small print run of 400 copies, this certainly is a worthy musical trophy to be added to the cabinet.

Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5

Todd Robinson
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