Lesser-Known Gem: Эпос – Илья (Epos – Ilya)

epos

Band: Эпос (Epos) | Album: Рок-Былина Илья (Rok-Bylina Ilya) | Year: 1989 | Genre: Progressive rock, Progressive folk

From: Leningrad, USSR (now Saint Petersburg, Russia) | Label: Мелодия (Melodiya)

For fans of: Magma, Batushka, Sigur Rós

I have an inexplicable affinity for Eastern Bloc progressive rock. I suppose it extends to music from oppressive regimes more generally, but Communist Europe had a rather thriving artistic scene (outside of Albania). Epos was among the most distinct groups to come out of the Soviet Union, a bizarre blend of cosmic synthesizers, earthy strings, and haunting vocal arrangements. That being said, there is almost no information available about the band. The musicians’ names are listed on the back of the record sleeve, but the (English-language) internet holds very little background about the group. Even looking through the first two pages of Russian-language Google results didn’t yield anything at the time of writing.

This album tells the story of Ilya Muromets, a folk hero of the Kievan Rus. It bills itself as a “rock-bylina” (a bylina being traditional East Slavic style of epic poetry), and this album is one of relatively few that actually feels uniquely Slavic. Continue reading “Lesser-Known Gem: Эпос – Илья (Epos – Ilya)”

Album Review: Kekal – Deeper Underground

kekal

Band: Kekal | Album: Deeper Underground | Year: 2018 | Genre: Progressive metal, Black metal, Electronic

From: Jakarta, Indonesia | Label: Hitam Kelam Records

For fans of: Agalloch, Atheist, Kayo Dot

Buy: BandcampAmazon | Apple Music

Kekal have been around for two decades, but this may be their best album yet. The band’s signature sound of complex black metal, catchy pop sensibilities, and wonky electronics comes together in a way more balanced than anything else I’ve previously heard from them. This is a huge improvement over their last release, 2015’s Multilateral, which was an uneven effort. Throughout much of this band’s discography, they’ve often had a hard time getting the black metal and electronic influences to meld effectively.

Here, however, Kekal have dialed back the electronic elements of their sound. Bloops and bleeps are saved for interludes and building texture and atmosphere. It’s rare for synthesizers to take the spotlight for any extended period of time. This isn’t some purely black metal shredfest, either. Yes, a lot of the metal here is extreme, but the band also mixes in gentler sounds, ample interludes, and surprisingly accessible moments. Continue reading “Album Review: Kekal – Deeper Underground”