2017 is shaping up to be the year of atmospheric metal. More specifically, atmospheric black metal. Heretoir, Grift, and now Huszar are all prime candidates for my AotY list, and we still have time left for 2017 to offer up another surprise. But for now, Huszar is my latest and greatest Bandcamp discovery, and their 2017 album Providencia is something entirely unique and unlike anything else 2017 has to offer.
At its core, Providencia is atmospheric black metal, yet peeling back the skin reveals a skeleton made out of more unorthodox bones. Huszar aren’t afraid to include elements of synthwave, dark ambient and even electro pop into their sound, no matter how untrve it all seems on paper. In reality, however, they’ve created a dreamy, abrasive, yet disarmingly beautiful album with an odd, otherworldly charm to it, almost as if it were designed as the soundtrack to a particularly surreal fever dream.
Much like the cover, the music is multicoloured, in that each segment is vibrant and lush in its own unique way. Whether it’s second-wave black metal riffs, rolling drum solos or electronic interludes, there’s always something lively happening to keep even the most distracted listeners attentive. Ideas are introduced and discarded before they go on too long, songs are long and winding but never drawn-out, and riff repetition is used often but it never feels bothersome. The album is comprised of many moving parts, all acting as a whole and functioning as a unit, making Provencia more than the sum of its many parts.
As far as influences go, the music is weird enough that I have trouble picking out individual artists who have helped influence Huszar’s sound. Though at times, I did notice the guitar tones sound eerily similar to those used by 1184-era Windir, and some of the darker ambient moments recall a more playful Hulduefni. Other than that though, Huszar’s sound is largely their own. They manage to take black metal and turn it on its head, creating something fun and upbeat with an almost childlike happiness to it; equal parts wonder and joy.
Another genre convention Huszar completely disregard is the smothering of the bass guitar. The jangly bass can be heard at all times if you press your ear to the ground for it. It adds another layer to the sound, but never distracts from the real star: the riffs. While Huszar never go full-Deafhaven and play in major chords, their riffs certainly aren’t the typical frostbitten Norwegian variety we’re used to hearing rehashed in atmospheric black metal. I’m not the most proficient person when it comes to talking about the technical side of music, so I can hardly break down exactly what they’re doing, but I do know what I like to hear, and this is it. On the vocal front, we’ve got a howling, barking frontman hiding behind a layer of static and feedback. The vocals are muffled and distorted, which is something that I would usually consider a turn-off, but I’m more than willing to give Huszar a pass, as they genuinely enhance the record’s surrealist atmosphere.
When the year first started, I thought Immolation’s Atonement and Dying Fetus’ Wrong One to Fuck With would be the kings of them all. Then along came Heretoir, then Grift, and now Huszar, and as easy as that, 2017 morphed from the year of brutal death to the year of contemplative black metal. And if there’s enough gas left in the tank for another atmo-black release of this quality, 2017 might go down as one of the best years in the genre’s history.