By Nathanas Trismegistus
Czort – Apostoł; released April 30, 2020 by Under the Sign of Garazel Productions, a mouthful of a business name which, I’m sure, is an absolute pain in the ass when filling out paperwork; however, between them and Godz ov War Productions, they are very much keeping the Polish underground alive. This is the sophomore album from the nascent Polish band, and, as such, this is the perfect time for such a young band to start experimenting and really make a name for themselves. But do (or will) they accomplish this with the release of their second album? To the latter, well, only time can tell. To the former, though, that’s definitely more complicated and warrants some scrutiny. So let’s get into it.
Czort, as I’ve mentioned already, is a black metal band from Poland. The name “Czort” is actually a reference to a pig-faced demon of Slavic mythology. In typical Levyan fashion, the band has associated this name, or entity, with personal, or spiritual, freedom and an emphasis on individuality. However, the band presents itself as a collective, responding to interviews and touring (with little regard to a sense of individuality or personal identity) simply as Czort. Beyond these small details, I can’t really claim to know much about this band. I can only repeat what I’ve heard. I don’t know who they are or what other bands they may have played in. Apparently, though, the members of Czort wear black face paint for their shows. They might want to reconsider if they ever make their way to the States. Evidently, this aesthetical choice was influenced by the Markov Soroka solo-project, Tchornobog. Their musical style, conversely, is nothing like Tchornobog.
Czort have broken with black metal tradition by forgoing the demo process and diving straight into their first studio album, Czarna ewangelia, which was released in 2018, of course, by UTSOGP. It was a solid release; thoroughly enjoyable. What was most striking about it, though, was the unique style which Czort brought with that album. The sporadic breaks, the lavish leads, the sweeping melodies, and the weird harmonies – though not untypical among other Polish bands like Arkona, Cultes des Ghoules, Plaga, or even the recently reviewed Wilczyca – were all utilized to a satisfying end. With Apostoł, the uniqueness of this band is slightly dialed back. It still possesses all of these unique traits, but to a measurably lesser degree, definitely to the point that I would call it a step in the wrong direction; but, others might argue that they were merely reigned in to achieve a better balance. This album is, undoubtedly, a smoother, easier listen. But did these artistic choices result in a superior album? I don’t think so.
The melodies are all very simple, yet infectious and, dare I say, memorable (unlike a certain other album I just reviewed). But the simplicity really is giving me flashbacks to Porta Nigra’s latest exercise in pretention (which I also recently reviewed). The musical “breaks” or “pauses” or whatever you want to call them are used very sparingly. I don’t what it is, but, whereas the utilization of musical breaks felt more “punkish” and “headbang-able” in Czarna ewangelia, here they feel more like a vague, empty space between riffs. Czort seem to be going for a more “classical” sound and look (as, I think, is evidenced by the album artwork which has a color palette which, I swear, I’ve seen a million times), but I think “classical”, in this case, would be more accurately described as “conventional”. Czarna ewangelia was, by all accounts, a more “experimental” album (and I don’t mean that in the Porta Nigra pretentious avant-garde sense), particularly concerning the composition.
The pacing on this album is excellent. Every song leads into the next astonishingly well, even to the point that you might not even realize the song has changed. An easy almost 48-minute listen. The production quality, as I’ve alluded to already, is also excellent. Apostoł sounds amazingly polished, relative even to contemporary black metal standards. I would describe the sound of this album as very warm and golden, almost honeylike. There is a distinct lack of punchiness, though, especially since the roughness and “edge” of Czarna ewangelia are all but absent in this album. There is also a sort of sponginess which, I think, kind of weakens the sound of the guitars and, especially, the drums.
My favorite tracks would definitely be tracks 1, 2, and 7 (no I’m not going to write their obnoxiously long Polish titles out). While I think their previous effort was far superior, this is by no means a bad album. It is definitely a more accessible album and may indeed lead to greater success as a result, if anybody actually listens to it. Definitely worth giving it a chance. I think Czort missed their opportunity to really go wild with their performances and songwriting. The production quality kind of annoys me, but, for most, this is probably a non-issue. I would recommend Apostoł to almost any black metal aficionado. Not essential, though, unfortunately.
Listen/buy here: https://czortbluznierca.bandcamp.com/album/aposto