Even though we’ve covered a fair number of bands from the region here at the Vault, I don’t know that anyone has ever tried to talk about the Eastern European/former Soviet Republic black metal scene like we do about a lot of other major ones. I suppose there are reasons for that. For starters, a fair amount of sketchy black metal seems come out of that part of the world, and we do try to avoid those sorts of things. But more importantly, there’s probably less cohesiveness in terms of the type of black metal that originates in countries like Ukraine, for example, than somewhere like Portugal or Quebec. The one unifying trait they do have, though, is that they tend to be really fucking good.
The latest Ukrainian band to pop up on my radar and proceed to knock my dick into the dirt? One-man outfit SVRM, an atmospheric/depressive project that’s released half a dozen really solid demos since 2015. The first (and arguably best) of those demos is 7, which was recently reissued on cassette by Dutch label Dawnbreed Records. SVRM’s music hits several of my black metal sweet spots, and I’m hopeful that this reissue—apparently the first of a series—will help lone member c. find the wider audience his music deserves.
On the SVRM Bandcamp page, the space that bands generally fill with lengthy descriptions of their sound, musical philosophy, or some other sort of mission statement contains only one word: gloomscapes. In this instance, that one word is almost enough. Regular readers of this site know that I like my black metal best when its on the pretty and kind of sad end of the spectrum, and while SVRM are more aggressively pretty than a band like Violet Cold, Chiral, or Unreqvited, it still definitely fits the bill. Second track “Отчаяние” (“Despair”) is a perfect example. Harsh yet melodic tremolo picked chords carry most of the song, with two exceptions: a fingerpicked classical guitar interlude early in the song and a sparse section of atmospheric, effect-laden clean guitar near the end of the track. Yet neither of those sections fully commits to prettiness; there’s a line of shrill white noise over the classical guitar part (and much of the rest of the demo, actually), and the mix sounds deliberately cluttered during the ending section. Yet the overall effect is both highly effective and wholly engaging.
The lyrics on the demo deserve mention as well. Give that they’re in Russian I have to trust the accuracy of Google Translate here, but the first two tracks—“mir” (“peace”) and the the aforementioned “Отчаяние”—apparently take their lyrics from the works of “Silver Age” Russian Futurist poet Aleksei Yeliseyevich Kruchonykh. According to Google translate, his 1913 poem “Отчаяние” reads:
to dig out from under the earth
to jump over one’s head
sitting to go
where to bury the rings
hanging on a loop
I don’t know how much insight knowing that provides into SVRM’s music, but it seems pretty rad nonetheless.
All told, 7 is very solid starting point for anyone curious about delving into SVRM’s discography. And if you like your black metal on the atmospheric, melodic, or depressive side, you should definitely get to know this band.
7 is now available on limited edition, numbered cassette from Dawnbreed Records.
Clayton T. Michaels (Senior Editor) is a mild-mannered college English teacher by day, and a craft beer drinking, black metal and grindcore loving misanthrope by night. He’s also an award-winning poet and rabid Red Sox fan. Send him your promos at [email protected] You can also find him posting pictures of black metal cassettes and beer can labels on Instagram as @ironhops.