Artach are a young band, and it shows on Chronicles of a Black Winter, both for better and worse. That the duo had been writing for just nine months when they composed the album means it is full of exuberance, and a clear love of second-wave black metal shines through. But at the same time, it feels like Artach haven’t yet found their own voice and identity, with Chronicles of a Black Winter often feeling like a smorgasbord of mid-90’s techniques and tropes.
All your favourite aspects of second-wave black metal are here, present and correct. Tremolo-picked leads and frostbitten melodies; lyrics invoking the glory of nature and winter; a slightly raw production straight out of the early 90’s Osmose Production back-catalogue. Chronicles of a Black Winter is firmly within the conventions of genre, and as long as you go in expecting and accepting that, you’re going to have a good time. Want something that’s like Immortal or Enslaved, but not, y’know, Immortal or Enslaved? Artach have you covered. After a second-wave style album where you can focus on the music, rather than all the tabloid drama and history associated with that scene? Artach have what you need. Looking for the black metal equivalent of a popcorn flick, with all the expected story beats and set pieces? Chronicles of a Black Winter will satisfy your desires. All of which is to say, there’s nothing inherently wrong with Chronicles of a Black Winter; Artach have a solid handle on the different aspects of second-wave black metal and put them together well.
Yet it sometimes feels like they reach a point in a song and think, “OK, this is where we have to have the blasting section”, or, “this part needs to have a crawling, Celtic Frost-via-Darkthrone-via-later-Satyricon riff”. None of it is bad or unenjoyable, but the album would be vastly improved if Artach took an unexpected option sometimes. Or, on the other hand, it could undermine what the album is and trying to be. Chronicles of a Black Winter is a genre piece through-and-through, with all that entails. Enjoyable enough for its duration, though unlikely to leave a lasting impression; but sometimes, that’s exactly just what you want.
Chronicles Of A Black Winter is available now and can be purchased here.
Words: Stuart Wain