Whilst many black metal bands would have you believe they have something unique to offer – whether sonically or in terms of ethos – few come close to the individuality contained within the discography of Snøgg. With a sound that draws from a host of different sources but never sounds like any of them – with the likes of Ulver, Cult of Fire, and straight-up noise being apt reference points for previous records – and lyrical inspiration drawn from multiple mysticisms and mythologies (including from the Star Wars universe, as well as real-world beliefs), the duo are a genuinely unique band. Latest album, Dan, ko je Vrag vzel šalo, reinforces that further. A single track over twenty minutes in length, it is an inherently challenging listen, that largely eschews black metal in favour of far more diverse sounds.
Drawing upon the novel “Deseti brat” (English: “The Tenth Brother”) by Josip Jurči for inspiration, Dan, ko je Vrag vzel šalo is a dramatic, theatrical record, focusing upon the more supernatural aspects of the tale – a duel against the devil. So far, so black metal. What’s less black metal is the host of different sounds to be found within. Even if the first half of the song can be thought of as the “black metal” bit, it’s black metal by way of Root or the wildest excesses of 90’s Ulver – dramatic vocals (provided by five different individuals, playing different roles in the story), viola, and members credited for “spells” and “rituals” along with the usual guitar/bass/drums set-up. It’s black metal as theatre and folk story-telling, and unlike anything Snøgg have done before.
It’s the later third of the song which presents a greater challenge to the listener. Here, following a triumphant movement led by a stirring viola melody, the music collapses into almost pure noise, with all elements of metal excised. In this it reflects the theme of the story – that the devil cannot be defeated, as evil will always live in the hearts of men. It’s a dramatic shift for sure, and fits the narrative perfectly, making for a suitably uncomfortable listening experience. Yet sadly, it doesn’t make for quite as strong an ending as might be hoped – what is initially jarring and harsh becomes, over the course of nearly seven minutes, strangely ambient and flat. It is the sort of section which loses impact not by being inherently bad, but by simply being slightly too long – if cut down by a few minutes then Dan, ko je Vrag vzel šalo would end on a stronger note.
This is a relatively minor complaint, though. Dan, ko je Vrag vzel šalo is a record full of creativity and experimentation, from a band who are fearlessly exploring black metal’s frontiers. That they do so in a cohesive manner, rather than simply being eclectic for its own sake, is to be further commended, and Dan, ko je Vrag vzel šalo further evidences that they are a band who those looking for something different and interesting in black metal should be well aware of.
Dan, ko je Vrag vzel šalo is out now via Bandcamp and can be ordered here.
Words: Stuart Wain