The Bednja is a river in northern Croatia that rises in the mountainous forested areas near Macelj and follows a winding path until it flows into the larger Drava River. Bednja is also the name of a small village located near the river’s spring, well-known for the hard-to-understand dialect of its people… and for being very cold. And Bednja is also the name of the three-man Croatian band whose debut album, Doline Su Ostale Iza Nas, we’re now premiering.
When the band contacted us about the possibility of a premiere, I began listening to the album, as I always do before deciding whether to host a premiere. By the end of the second song, I was completely captured by the music and hurriedly wrote YES! before the third song began. As I eventually discovered, the rest of the album is every bit as good as the way it begins, striking like an unexpected bolt from the blue.
Doline Su Ostale Iza Nas translates to something like “Leaving the valleys behind us”. Like the album title, the titles and lyrics of the songs are in the Croatian language, and the lyrics are expressed through dual vocals that are part of what makes the music so intense. A mix of livid, throat-scarring howls (in the vein of hardcore) and fierce cries, the voices sound like nothing has been held back, like the two performers are turning themselves inside out.
The music is just as fiery and just as compelling as those voices, yet more varied. Black metal and hardcore are the dominant strains, but the music is a hybrid that includes other influences and musical accents. Each song is tremendously good on its own, but the album seems like an even greater accomplishment when heard straight through.
The music crackles with electrifying vibrancy, and it packs impressive power and formidable punch. It’s produced in a way that delivers the music with clarity and immediacy, but without lessening the feral forcefulness of these songs. And the near-physical impact of the sound is combined with memorable melodies that yield a dark emotional cast — the sounds of pain and resignation but also of zealous striving and unhinged violence. On top of that, the music is always changing, almost kaleidoscopic in the way it moves, and yet cohesive in its mission.
All three performers are technically impressive and inventive. The drumming is a clear stand-out feature, with the drummer (Petar) rapidly moving from pneumatic blast-beats to somersaulting progressions, from rocking cadences to bounding punk-influenced rhythms, from highly syncopated patterns to rolling thunder, and a lot more. The bassist (Ivan, who is also one of the vocalists) is an agile acrobat himself, delivering bass lines that ripple, bubble, yowl, and pulsate, with a tone that resembles a fretless bass.
And the guitarist and co-vocalist Nikola is just as adept, moving among riffs that buzz and cut like a bone saw, jab in rapid-fire fashion, and hammer with a vengeance. As mentioned earlier, he has also crafted an array of memorable melodies, which are moody, brooding, forlorn, beautiful, and grand.
The final pieces of this attention-grabbing musical mosaic are, for want of a better term, the often surprising ways in which Bednja have “accented” the music. To highlight just a few examples:
Just past the mid-point of “Posljednji krik” (The final cry), a storm of ravaging sound subsides, the guitar turns crystalline, and the music becomes a head-bobbing, post-punk-influenced jaunt, which then segues back into an attack of buzzing riffs and thundering drums….
Reverberating notes with an evanescent quality form a duet with a soulful bass refrain on top of an infectious syncopated drum rhythm during a part of “Ledena palaca” (Palace of ice)… and the title song (which is the closing track) ends in the sounds of a ferocious thunderstorm and a cold rushing wind, followed by a folk song, with impassioned clean voices accompanied by the strumming of an instrument that sounds something like a mandolin.
More accents are scattered across the album, but I’ll refrain from spoiling every surprise.
In a nutshell, Doline su ostale iza nas is a chain both heavy and buoyant, with no weak links. I encourage you to give it your full attention.
Bednja’s plan, as I understand it, is to find one or more labels willing to release the album on vinyl. Until then, it won’t be offered for sale or download, though it will be made available for streaming on their Bandcamp page later this month. For further info, follow Bednja here: