(Here’s Wil Cifer’s review of the new album by Ragana from Oakland, California.)
With the tone of recent world events providing the inspiration for their new album You Take Nothing, the Oakland two-piece have returned with a feral vision of their brand of blackened crust.
The album opens with a deliberate crunch before it turns toward placing more emphasis on atmosphere. Where they part ways with many American black metal bands is in the concise nature of their songwriting. It never feels like you have lost your place in a bloated drone of tremolo picking, and the blast beats always feel as if they are wisely implemented.
These ladies hit you with varied colors and tempos. The anger they have put into the songs is thankfully glazed with a haze of metaphors rather than going the more punk route of shoving group-think bitching down your throat. This band once had more of a neo-folk element, but the last vestiges of that are shed. The use of clean vocals is even trimmed back, but they do surface going into the song “Winter’s Light”, though the melodic breath of fresh air is yanked away by a fiery explosion of blast beats.
One of my favorite moments is the more sludged-out melancholy of “Destroyer”. The vocals are screamed with even more menace here. Her delivery on the chorus is one of the more effective uses of harsh vocals I have come across this year, as the cadence still accents everything as needed.
The guitar riff to the verse of “Somewhere” is more like indie rock. The way the vocals urgently plead against the riffs makes this one of the album’s strongest songs.
The album ends with the title track, which is ominous and darker than most of the previous songs, which already have a gray shroud over them. Vocally there is more of crust calling out to the void. There is a little bit of a drone to this one, but it is effective as the song keeps moving, and the change of the vocals toward the end really makes a difference.
It is more than evident that most of the growth this album displays lies in the attention to detail, balanced out by the sheer passion in their song-writing. While this album might not be as black metal as their earlier releases, it’s the quality songwriting that counts. The vinyl version of this album is already sold out, but you can buy the digital version on places like their Bandcamp.