If my brain worked better or if I kept better notes about interesting phenomena I could provide an exhaustive list of all the 2018 albums released by notable bands with little or no advance fanfare. Off the top of my head I can name Panopticon, Sargeist, and Kriegsmaschine. And now I can name one more, because yesterday the Polish blackened death metal band In Twilight’s Embrace released a new album without warning.
This is the band’s fifth full-length, following hot on the heels of last year’s Vanitas, which we premiered and reviewed here (at length). Because everyone can listen to it now, and because I’ve only listened to it twice (in rapid succession), having been surprised by its appearance as much as anyone else, I’m only going to share some immediate impressions of Lawa… and they’re obviously positive ones or I’d be keeping them to myself (since at this site we only write about what we want to recommend).
The announcement of the album included this explanation, which is a meaningful forecast about the music:
“In the evening of Forefathers’ Eve or All Saints’ Day to others, we are one with our Dead. To honor them and to communicate with the netherworlds, IN TWILIGHT’S EMBRACE unleash Lawa, a work of music and word meant to mark the significance of this very day in the culture of their homeland.
“Sung entirely in Polish, Lawa captures what they think is the essence of the Polish spirit: a boiling mixture of insane passion, belief in the supernatural, death worship and dwelling on the past. Drawing some inspiration from both the famous poetic drama “Dziady” (“Forefathers’ Eve”) by Adam Mickiewicz and its psychedelic movie rendition Lawa (1989) by Tadeusz Konwicki, the new work of IN TWILIGHT’S EMBRACE is the proof that romantic traditions are still the cornerstone of Poland’s DNA and cultural paradigm. For better or worse. Or bitter, if you will.”
We are promised music that takes the band’s sound in more “atmospheric, idiosyncratic and surreal directions” — a “celebration of the weird!” — and that’s true. There’s definitely a devilish, diabolical flavor to the music — a sense of otherworldly peril and nightmarish hallucinations waft about the sounds, and many of the songs spiral off into whirling frenzies of delirious ecstasy. There’s tension and turmoil in the music as it ranges from gloomy, lurching stomps to feverish racing, in which you feel that something ungodly is chasing you.
Peals of dissonant melody and soft, moody note reverberations convey venomous hostility and ghostly hauntings; bursts of blasting percussion and grim, buzzing riffs channel a murderous chill; dervish-like fretwork manifests visions of witches and warlocks cavorting around midnight bonfires.
But it should be emphasized that while listening to the music does often seem like peering through a veil into a different, paranormal dimension, it also rocks. In fact, an opportunity to move your head and tap your feet is never far away, and the album is loaded with strummed chords and catchy melodic hooks. Have no fear — the band haven’t abandoned the elements of black and death metal in their music — but they certainly feel unconstrained by any limitations those genre labels might impose. And the song-writing is so good that the movements among styles (and rhythms) flow seamlessly rather than in a jarring fashion.
Whenever writing about this band, all of whom turn in outstanding performances here, I always feel compelled to single out the vocals of Cyprian Łakomy, and here again he turns in a great performance, crossing a wide range from livid, bloodthirsty snarls to piercing cries, from creepy spoken incantations to cold, cruel growls. And he’s aided by the vibrant singing voice of Michał Wiraszko (Muchy) on “Dziś wzywają mnie podziemia”.
As a final word, I’ll say that there are no weak spots on this compact album. I honestly had no sense of time passing as I listened. I started, and before I knew it, I was at the end… and starting at the beginning again… because I felt so carried away by the music, so immersed in what In Twilight’s Embrace were doing, so beguiled by their sorcery.
It’s always risky to make grand proclamations about music you’ve only just heard, without letting time pass to see if its strength endures, but fuck it: Lawa is not merely a wonderful surprise, it’s also one of the standout releases in a year that’s already marked as a great one for metal. Carve out 30 minutes from your day, and let it run away with your mind.
Lawa was recorded and mixed by the band’s Marcin Rybicki at Vintage Records and Left Hand Sounds, and mastered by Michał Kupicz. The cover artwork and layout were created by Mateusz Holak. The album is available now on Bandcamp, on CD and digitally, and it will also be released via Arachnophobia Records and Malignant Voices. An LP edition is planned for early 2019.
(Thanks to Conchobar for being the first person to alert me to the album’s release.)