Written by Swatty
Adliga – Vobrazy
Post/Doom Metal from Minsk, Belarus
Released November 5th via independent/self-release
Post-metal is a vibrant and sonorous ecosystem full of many intricate layers filtered through a myriad of effects to produce something ethereal, cathartic and most often melancholy. It is one of the few genres out there to so easily abscond the listener to some other grey dimension full of rolling nebulous waves that crash and recede, levitating us in the air through the power of raw emotion alone. Our ears have become so attuned to hearing this complex gestalt of manipulated sound that one has to wonder, what would happen if you peeled back all those layers to reveal the tormented heart? Minsk’s Adliga have also asked that question and as it turns out, doom metal is revealed to be the vehicle for which post-metal slowly ambulates with its head facing downwards.
On their debut full length Vobrazy, the Belarusian quintet display a unified vision of stripped back and crestfallen doom filtered through a post-metal context, and the end result is in effect quite lovely. Of course there are the usual pedal boards to give the guitars an emphatic post pedigree, but they are done so with such austerity that there are times I would lump this album closer to something Isole has done rather than Isis – but that’s where their idiosyncrasy shines the brightest. I don’t think it’s uncommon knowledge that both doom and post share a lot of DNA and there are moments here that illustrate that point beautifully.
The guitars are the easiest starting point – they are minimally altered and provide a meat and potatoes backdrop for the rest of the players. The melodies themselves are fairly direct but awash with great passion and disconsolate attitude. This is exemplified perfectly in the lead-off single “Žyvy” where the opening riff consists of a single minor chord relaying with some tremolo that’s anchored by a gentle blast beat as guitarist/vocalist Uladzimir Burlau growls and rasps. To wit, a palpable sense of dread is nurtured until a beautiful section sans percussion is led by the sadness and fullness of lead singer Katja Sidelova’s alto register. This uncomplicated methodology continues to propel the song forward until Sidelova primes the stunning climax that occurs at 4:23 where the proceedings truly take off in an act of glorious and angered resignation.
In fact it is her vocals that give such a powerful depth to the cerulean hues. Sidelova’s voice is chameleonic but very affecting, often transforming from a syrupy alto chanteuse to performing righteously angry screams reminiscent of the legendary Julie Christmas. She effectively demonstrates this talent on opening track “Apošni Raz” where she croons a forlorn séance in Belarusian with such powerful longing juxtaposed with a sense of welcoming which invites the listener to explore further. I don’t speak any of the Slavic languages, but the Belarusian diction used here in a sung context is very provocative and deftly exhibits the power of a held and heartfelt vowel which transcends meaning in all languages. For example, the profound yearning she shows on “Paparać Kvietka” is so cathartic in its devastation. From what I can gather much of the thematic content involves Belarusian folklore, and more often than not this culture seems to be built from the foundations of a collective and desolate aching which is beautifully mirrored here.
She also uses her screams quite effectively which repeatedly evokes the scream/sung style of Aðalbjörn Tryggvason from Sólstafir. While most of the harsh vocals are actually done by Burlau through a dry raspy bark, Sidelova’s occasional screams drip with a deep frustration and unimaginable hurt. It’s hard not to be moved as she is screaming her head off, howling from a place of suffocating darkness. The best example of this is in the aforementioned “Žyvy” towards the end where she completely lets go. I sincerely hope that future releases of the band see her express that side further because it is so fiercely poignant and adds a heavy sense of desperation. Regardless, her instrument is gorgeous and I’m excited to see how it evolves from here.
The combined rhythm section of Roman Petrashkevich (bass) and Artem Voronko (drums) provide a worthy and basic foundation for the rest of the band. There is not a lot of ornamentation in the bass lines but just enough flair to complement Voronko’s tribal and restrained drumming in some interesting ways. The two definitely play more like they’re in a doom band and that creates a compelling framework for the more wistful guitar arcs that try to reach skyward. They do occasionally get into a more post-y groove such as the playful 2/4 with accompanying tambourine on “Bol Na Sercy” that would adeptly fit right in a Cult of Luna song. Oh, and speaking of Cult of Luna, Magnus Lindberg does a fantastic job of mastering Vobrazy, giving all the instruments a satisfying punch and crunch.
The Bottom Line
Adliga means “thaw” in Belarusian and like the seasonal thaws that happen annually where the ice and snow melts away to reveal the undergrowth, the band does the same in melting the genre lines between doom and post metal. They certainly aren’t reinventing the wheel here, but through the honest and heartfelt performance and minimal instrumentation they remind us that both are made of the same tears and stardust. Between the haunting riffs and Katja Sidelova’s beautiful and visceral alto performance, this is the sound of a band who definitely knows who they are and where they are going. And with that being said, if you consider yourself even a casual fan of doom and post-metal, I can’t recommend enough that you give them a compulsory listen.
Favorite track: “Apošni Raz”