“Like the Slovak soul itself, these songs are often both grim and humorous, merry and melancholic at the same time.”
Eastern Europe, where some reserved folks live and mostly keep to themselves. Amongst these folk, Slovakians witnessed a lot of political volatility in the recent past which resulted in the separation of Czech Republic and Slovakia in early 90s. This civil unrest led to the rise of a small circle of black metal artists which ultimately formed the foundation of bands like Malokarpatan along with other projects like Krolok, Temnohor, and Algor.
Black metal was what the Czech youth experimented with thirty years ago to create something new with bands such as Master’s Hammer, Root, and Maniac Butcher. Their Slovakian neighbours Malokarpatan, on the other hand, have the idea of using black metal to pay their tributes to the traditional in modern times. Unaffected by temporary trends and recent movements, Malokarpatan strongly rooted their approach in the old school. This here does not mean only musically, but also aesthetically and the thematically. In this age where black metal bands have been singing about Satan, uninspired, for over twenty-five years; they are lucky to have the Slovakian folklore, legends, and fairy-tales that are rich enough that they never had to write about any other subject. The band released their first full-length with no pre-debut demos or EPs in 2015. Ever since then, they’ve been writing songs in their local dialect to tell tales filled with local demons, rural witchcraft, and drunkenness complete with overly long titles, lyrics that have pure evil at some points and tongue-in-cheek humour at others. Their habit of always including English translations of everything in the albums is also highly appreciated.
Something they have in common musically with one of their main influences, Master’s Hammer, is that they know how to stand on that fine line between sounding traditional and sounding creative. How they mastered that balance can be better understood when one looks at the various projects of the artists in the band. Krolok is where they sound like they are playing black metal in ‘96 and Remmirath is where they play “avant-garde black metal” that does not particularly care for genre boundaries, often leaving the metal part completely behind. Being creative within the boundaries of “old school” is not an easy feat, but Malokarpatan are one of those who can do it seamlessly. Their guitar lines and riffs are direct descendant of Mercyful Fate, Master’s Hammer, and Bathory yet they feel fresh all the time. Galloping rhythms and smooth melodic leads are the signature sound, as one can expect from those influences. Songs are often enriched by the tasteful use of Slovakian movie samples, classical music pieces, or field recordings of animals and nature itself.
In 2017 -after their debut full-length, a single track on a Samhain celebration compilation, and a planned split track that actually did not come out until late 2018- they released their sophomore album: Nordkarpatenland. This album feels like a step up from the already-brilliant debut, Stridžie dni, in all possible ways. Nordkarpatenland does even more justice to how they describe their sound, “dark heavy metal”, than the debut. Featuring a mix of black metal and traditional heavy metal that is often more on the heavy metal side of things, the guitar tone of the band was further cleaned up by this point. Song writing got even more creative while keeping the same old school spirit. Atmospheric interludes and samples tie the songs better than ever. Some big names in the underground metal circles like Annick Giroux (Cauchemar bassist/vocalist, Temple of Mystery Records founder) and Necrocock (Master’s Hammer, Kaviar Kavalier) participated as guest musicians. On top of all that, they managed to find an album artwork that captures the band’s sound and all the folk horror tales they like to tell even better than the previous album -an artwork one can stare at for hours and keep catching new details. For all those who needed to have that glorious artwork in large format, the album was pressed on vinyl by the cooperation of Invictus Productions and The Ajna Offensive finally a year after its original release.
With the release of Nordkarpatenland, the band found an underground fame for themselves; getting international high praise and landing a USA tour with Negative Plane. This new era of the band, however, was not what the original vocalist Temnohor had in mind when they started so he had to drop out. Thankfully, the others were able to sort it all out and now they are again a five-piece, having already completed their next album, which is going to be even more epic sounding and based on Slovakian folk tales as usual. Until we get to hear the output of that more epic (possibly sounding like mid-era Root) new direction of the band, Nordkarpatenland will be on heavy rotation for many listeners. It will presumably stay there even after they put out more material because it’s one of those albums I would already confidently consider to be one of those infamous modern classics everyone likes to talk about.
Album rating: 95/100
Favorite song: V hustej hore na stračích nohách striga chalupu svoju ukrýva