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BlackBraid - Blackbraid I review




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Reviewer:
7.8

97 users:
8.02
Band: BlackBraid
Album: Blackbraid I
Release date: August 2022


01. The River Of Time Flows Through Me
02. As The Creek Flows Softly By
03. Sacandaga
04. Barefoot Ghost Dance On Blood Soaked Soil
05. Warm Wind Whispering Softly Through Hemlock At Dusk
06. Prying Open The Jaws Of Eternity


With all the focus on American Western black metal in recent years with the likes of Wayfarer, Untamed Land and Dark Watcher, there’s been a distinct lack of an indigenous voice in the discussion, until now.

Yes, if you’ve heard of BlackBraid before now, it’s probably because you’ve heard of the ‘Native American black metal project’. A one-man band (with the exception of drums, performed by producer Neil Schneider), BlackBraid is the vehicle of Sgah'gahsowáh, and it is a very striking vehicle. The thing is, from a purely musical (or if we’re being specific, instrumental, as the lyrics clearly draw from the indigenous experience) perspective, the project’s debut album doesn’t make its origins nakedly obvious; there are occasional non-metal instruments, particularly pipes, that are brought into play on tracks such as “Sacandaga”, but it’s not a record that is relying on gimmick. This is a serious, sharp-edged, blistering slab of melodic/atmospheric black metal, and it’s strong enough to go toe to toe with the competition.

Broken up by two 3-minute acoustic quasi-interludes that bear some degree of resemblance to Agalloch (particularly “Warm Wind Whispering Softly Through Hemlock At Dusk”, which would have slotted in naturally on Marrow Of The Spirit), the album is otherwise mostly geared towards sharp melodic-tinged tremolo, with most of the fluctuation in intensity carried by the drums shifting between blast beats and more measured patterns. These shifts in intensity do result in an album that flows very smoothly, culminating in some more grandstand moments that nicely cap off tracks, whether it’s the lead guitar melody during the bridge of opener “The River Of Time Flows Through Me” or the Medieval-sounding midsection of “Barefoot Ghost Dance On Blood Soaked Soil”.

Still, BlackBraid manage to make even more single-minded approaches work; a contender for the album’s best song, “Sacandaga” barely takes a moment to pause throughout its near-7-minute runtime, Schneider blasting and Sgah'gahsowáh tremoloing along relentlessly to create a storm of melodic blackened aggression with only those aforementioned pipes offering any notable levity. As overbearing as barrages of blasts can be, the riffs are good enough and the tone evocative enough that this song doesn’t lose steam or become draining before it reaches its conclusion. At the other end of the spectrum, 10-minute closer “Prying Open The Jaws Of Eternity” rarely opts for full-throttle rampaging, spending substantial portions of its runtime in slower, doomier waters, with the result again capturing the essence of the material on Marrow Of The Spirit.

Whenever a project marketed with some form of gimmick comes along, it becomes prone to more extreme reactions in either direction than it may have otherwise received. Is BlackBraid a revelatory record? In my eyes, it’s a bit too conventional and lacking in range to be so; the components of the album are very solid, and its songs definitely make an impact, but as a complete package I’m not as taken with it as I am with Wayfarer’s last couple of albums, for comparison.

Nevertheless, this is merely the debut album, and there’s already some very strong material to be found here, particularly on the two songs placed in the middle of the record, “Sacandaga” and “Barefoot Ghost Dance On Blood Soaked Soil”. Additionally, the production brings an ideal level of rawness to the music, one that really heightens the impact of these compositions by niftily balancing bite and clarity. It took Wayfarer and Untamed Land an album or two to really hit their groove, and if the same is the case for BlackBraid, I’m very excited to see what they manage to cook up next.


Rating breakdown
Performance: 8
Songwriting: 8
Originality: 6
Production: 8





Written on 30.08.2022 by Hey chief let's talk why not


Comments

Comments: 6   Visited by: 142 users
31.08.2022 - 08:35
Bad English
Tage Westerlund
This is good band has potential to be big. I like this one
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Stormtroopers of Death - ''Speak English or Die''

I better die, because I never will learn speek english, so I choose dieing
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31.08.2022 - 09:09
Fallen Ghost
Craft Beer Geek
Listening for the first time right now, some nice and tasty black metal!
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31.08.2022 - 09:54
Bad English
Tage Westerlund
As review writer said those ''western'' bands, all of them and this has possibility to be a new Aggaloch, similar , awesome, atmospheric BM whit neo folk inspiration, cool lyrics but I am afraid we wont see so big band as Aggaloch once was.
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Life is to short for LOVE, there is many great things to do online !!!

Stormtroopers of Death - ''Speak English or Die''

I better die, because I never will learn speek english, so I choose dieing
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01.09.2022 - 00:18
Rating: 7
ScreamingSteelUS
Editor-in-Chief
I'm glad you decided to review this. Partly because BlackBraid has been generating some hype and I was hoping someone would cover it, but also because it convinced me to give them another shot; I listened to "Barefoot Ghost Dance On Blood Soaked Soil" and "The River Of Time Flows Through Me" when they were released, because I, too, was ensnared by the hubbub, and I found them forgettable. I was hoping for something that would much more directly manifest the influences of Native American musical traditions, since atmospheric black metal bands are a dime a dozen and music from the indigenous peoples of North America is not something you often come across in this context (considering how effectively we destroyed their cultural continuity over the years). I liked a lot of the Black Twilight Circle bands, for example, but I always wished that they were more overtly folk metal than just raw or psychedelic black metal. If this had more in the way of woodwinds and hand percussion and such, I think it would be more interesting to me.

Nonetheless, hearing those songs in an album context, I enjoy them more, and I'm glad you made the Agalloch comparison since that helps me contextualize the style better. I had my expectations rebuffed in my first exposure so I needed another push to reassess, and now that I've done that I like the album. I do hope that the next album gets more sophisticated and more unique; I think your review says it all.
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01.09.2022 - 00:24
Rating: 8
musclassia

Written by ScreamingSteelUS on 01.09.2022 at 00:18

I'm glad you decided to review this. Partly because Blackbraid has been generating some hype and I was hoping someone would cover it, but also because it convinced me to give them another shot; I listened to "Barefoot Ghost Dance On Blood Soaked Soil" and "The River Of Time Flows Through Me" when they were released, because I, too, was ensnared by the hubbub, and I found them forgettable. I was hoping for something that would much more directly manifest the influences of Native American musical traditions, since atmospheric black metal bands are a dime a dozen and music from the indigenous peoples of North America is not something you often come across in this context (considering how effectively we destroyed their cultural continuity over the years). I liked a lot of the Black Twilight Circle bands, for example, but I always wished that they were more overtly folk metal than just raw or psychedelic black metal. If this had more in the way of woodwinds and hand percussion and such, I think it would be more interesting to me.

Nonetheless, hearing those songs in an album context, I enjoy them more, and I'm glad you made the Agalloch comparison since that helps me contextualize the style better. I had my expectations rebuffed in my first exposure so I needed another push to reassess, and now that I've done that I like the album. I do hope that the next album gets more sophisticated and more unique; I think your review says it all.


This sounds about right; it's an album that's built hype based on a gimmick, but if you take away the marketing, it's a conventional-sounding album, even if it's an unconventional voice making that sound, and its appeal rests purely on how well it stacks up against other conventional bands. I think it does a pretty darn decent job of doing so, as the hooks on this album are more memorable than most that I've encountered in meloblack this year (admittedly, not the strongest year for the subgenre), and the intensity is powerful but not overwhelming. Yet, there's still room to become more impressive for the project
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01.09.2022 - 11:57
RaduP
CertifiedHipster
This scratches my Agalloch itch.
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