Zgard – Contemplation (Heathenriser)

Thursday, 12th June 2014
Rating: 7.5/10

It’s a love/hate relationship with Ukraine’s Zgard. These one-man projects are always complicated in one way or another because the music is limited by one musician’s individual ideas in their own style which may not translate so well to others. Whatever it takes to get something out of the system or expressing a concept are common cases for musicians. In any case, Zgard’s Yaromisl is a really good musician. Too bad we can’t say the same for his music.

Contemplation is a winter wonderland gone angry. It’s soaked in many (rather too much) snow-based sound effects that form the wintery atmosphere, plus bird calls, operatic choral verses, dramatic keyboard solos, and so on. Too many special effects can make an album render somewhat as a movie soundtrack, which it’s not, and we don’t want to feel like we’re listening to anything close to a movie soundtrack. Sometimes it’s like having to trek through snow just to hear the first guitar string strum or vocal syllable. It’s alright the first few listens, but after a while gets tiring and the thrill soon dulls out.

One noteworthy song is “Through the Forest” with outstanding sopilka solos. The sopilka, a Ukrainian flute, is excellent instrument choice for Zgard. Still, the most striking song on the album is “Incarnation Memory.” Guaranteed, we’ve never seen the vargan (a.k.a. mouth harp) played so gnarly. Any metaller could easily say “why didn’t we think of that before?” So much for folk metal, bring on the vargan metal! If there’s one good reason own this album, it’s that “Incarnation Memory” pretty much makes it worth it.

Contemplation is a fairly good album, but for the most part best as a one-time listen because the dense structure seems to grow weaker every time it’s played. Again, Yaromisl is a talented multi-instrumentalist and a wicked harsh vocalist, but he ought to try focusing more on the music and less on the mood, tones, ambiance, and themes of the songs. There are a couple great songs on the record, but being the last two of seven tracks, they nearly came too late.

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