Dzö-nga – The Sachem’s Tales (Avantgarde Music)

Monday, 31st July 2017
Rating: 8/10

That would be pronounced “zone-gah” and evidently, it’s the name of a cryptid or demon that is said to haunt the mountain Kangchenjunga. (Thanks Metal Archives, as usual.) Essentially a one-man project helmed by a fellow from Massachusetts named Cryvas, Dzö-nga, as you would expect, play a brand of atmospheric black metal that is suitably enticing. On the band’s sophomore The Sachem’s Tales, Dzö-nga provides an array of light, airy melodic bouts to time in with prototypical black metal ferocity. Such is the balancing act most atmospheric black metal bands attempt…

While the use of a drum machine is always a bit of a letdown, Cryvas has the (artificial) drums mixed to the point where they’re not front-and-center in the mix. Instead, he has them buried under a pile of hazy, sideways guitar chords and keyboard avenues, all of which gather up steam, then crest, allowing for those aforementioned melodic break-off sections to take shape. And that’s probably what Dzö-nga’s strongest suit is. The touches applied to “To the Great Salt Water” (including female vocals provided by Grushenka Ødegård) and “Against the Northern Wind” occasionally cross over into folk territory, although to the trained ear, they may not be too far off from Summoning’s grand era, which would be Stronghold and Let Mortal Heroes Sing Your Fame.

Frankly, there are so many bands doing this kind of atmospheric black metal variation at the moment that any kind of sonic identifier comes in handy. For Dzö-nga, it’s the peddling, light-as-a-feather keyboard interplay and deft use of female vocals, elements that contribute to The Sachem’s Tales’ success. Already rather prolific two years into forming Dzö-nga, consider our curiosity piqued as to what Cryvas has up his sleeves next…

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