VOTA: Ukrainian Black Metal

The Ukraine has always had a very strong and active Black Metal scene. It leans heavily to the Pagan and atmospheric side of things, and the majority of the band’s concepts and ideas are drawn from old Slavic and germanic mythology, history, nature and national identity. In turn this produces a sound that is both unique and inspiring and it's no secret that I'm a huge fan! There is a lot of folk influence but the sound remains raw, untamed and rooted in traditional black metal so as to maintain a beautiful sense of melody and with this a sound that has the ability to paint vivid images in the minds eye. Like with so many Black Metal scenes, you find that the artists often collaborate on many different projects and it's this kind of camaraderie and united artistic vision that adds to the forging of a sound that is truly unique to the Ukraine. So much so is this the case that we’re now seeing it influencing artists from other scenes such as Sweden's Skogen or the UK's Winterfylleth. With the spearheading Drudkh's 12th full-length album out in April I thought I would place the spotlight on some of the other bands from Ukrainian scene.

Nokturnal Mortum

First off, you cannot talk about Ukrainian Black Metal without first looking at Karkiv's Nokturnal Mortum. Whilst going through numerous line-up and stylistic changes (and more drummers than spinal tap) since their inception in 1994, Nokturnal Mortum have remained a powerhouse of Ukrainian Black Metal and a lot of bands in the scene can be linked back to them in some way or another. Starting out as a keyboard-heavy Symphonic Black Metal outfit with releases including 1995's Twilightfall and 1997's Goat Horns, over time they have adopted a more Pagan outlook and began embedding more and more folk influence into the music too. This has led to some very interesting albums like 2004's Mirovozzrenie and 2009's The Voice of Steel. Stylistically these albums are a far cry from their Symphonic Black Metal roots but the spirit and passion behind the music remains the same. With a healthy discography and a steady and interesting evolution over the years, Nokturnal Mortum are a band well worth looking into.


As time goes on Kroda are fastly becoming one of my favorite bands, and I find myself returning to their work more and more as the years go by. Blending folk instruments and melodies into raw Black Metal seamlessly is a skill unto itself, and Kroda have mastered the art perfectly. At times it's harsh and cold, at others it breaks into a beautiful vista of somber flutes and violins that leave you feeling like you’ve emerged from a dense forest only to realise you are looking at the breathtaking view of a sweeping valley below. The music paints pictures in the mind and if you are lacking in the imagination department then the beautiful artwork and photography featured on the album sleeves and booklets will do the rest of the work for you. Kroda started life as a two-man studio project in 2003 but with the help of session musicians they took to the stage in 2007 as a live band and are still doing shows and festivals to this day. If you come away with anything from this article today it's to go out and buy a Kroda album - you will not be disappointed and 2007's Fimbulvinter is a must!


Now, if icy-cold harshness, subtle melodies, pagan mysticism and a love of Hate Forest are more your thing then Ulvegr are definitely the band for you. Relentless, uncompromising and strangely hypnotic at times, this band first emerged on the scene in 2009 as the brainchild of Stalwart Khors guitarist Helg and ex Nokturnal Mortum drummer Odalv. So, you can already imagine the quality of the work on display. The pair have released three albums to date with 2012's Arctogaia being my personal favourite. I incessantly recommend this band for fans of Hate Forest.


Khors first emerged on the scene in 2004 after Khorus left Astofaes and teamed up with ex-Hate Forest drummer Khaoth and Helg to form a new band. This band then went on to produce a string of excellent albums like 2006's Cold and 2010's Return to Abandon. Khors’ sound is bleak, riff-heavy and filled with amazing melody alongside hints of keyboards, folk instruments and even elements of 70's prog. They deal with subject matters ranging from Pagan mysticism to the very cosmos itself. The band have also been a big name on the Eastern European festival scene whilst amassing quite a fan base in the process, justifiably.


Ygg are for lack of a better term an Eastern European Black Metal supergroup consisting of members from Ulvegr, Khors and Nokturnal Mortum and with lyrics, artwork and guest appearances from Russia's Blazebirth Hall Camp. Ygg are the definitive sound of Slavic Black Metal in my opinion; the Drudkh style riffs mixed with the melodies of Khors accompanied by the heart pounding drumming of Hate Forest, the isolated atmosphere of Walknut and all topped off with the grandeur and scope of Nokturnal Mortum. This melting pot all fuse together to forge something that is compelling, engrossing and completely unique to the ancient Slavic lands of it's birth. Ygg have only released one album to date but what an album it is! If I had to recommend just one band to give you the vision and sound for a whole scene then Ygg capture it in all it's glory!

This is only a small selection of bands to get you started down the rabbit hole so to speak, but the Ukraine and the rest of Eastern Europe has a very strong and diverse Black Metal scene producing some amazing and inspiring music and it is well worth searching out more bands from the Slavic lands to our east if this selection tickles your fancy. Be warned though, like with most countries that sat for years behind the iron curtain under the thumb of communism, some of the bands (and certainly not all) have some right leaning tendencies or have at least had periods where they flirted with it so if that sort of thing offends you then I’d suggest you steer clear. On the other hand though this is extreme music so you should be able to handle extreme views. Politics and bullshit aside, there really is some beautiful music on offer here and if you are a fan of Drudkh and have yet to explore the rest of the scene they came from, I implore you to dive right in.



Artist - Jesters of Destiny
Title - The Sorrows That Refuse to Drown
Label - Ektro

Thirty years after Jesters of Destiny arrived, dropped Fun at the Funeral and disappeared back into the night, they’re finally back with a second full length release courtesy of Ektro Records, and whilst it could never live up to first album, the eccentricity of the band shines through once more and it’s a crazy ride from start to finish. Pick it up on April 4th!


Artist - Hammerfest IX
Date - 23rd- 26th March
Venue - Pwllheli, Wales  

One of our main highlights of the year, this month we’re off to Wales for Hammerfest, HRH’s Heavy Metal flagship. With the return of two Power Metal titans alongside a host of others, this year looks to be one of their best ever. We’ll be covering the whole festival