A demonic entity hailing from the United States gives life to the Algonquin folklore in a brand new concept album of vibrant and classy Atmospheric Black Metal.
In case you’re searching for the next name in Atmospheric and Epic Black Metal, you must take a listen at The Sachem’s Tales, the brand new concept album by an American Black Metal project that goes by the name of Dzö-nga (pronounced “zone-gah”), formed in 2016 in the city of Boston, Massachusetts, United States by multi-instrumentalist Cryvas. By the way, did you know Dzö-nga is the name of a cryptid or demon that is said to haunt the mountain Kangchenjunga, the third highest mountain in the world lying partly in Nepal and partly in Sikkim, India? Drawing inspiration from world mythologies, Dzö-nga is definitely the perfect name to represent the music by this heavy and eccentric monster of underground extreme music.
The Sachem’s Tales, Dzö-nga’s second full-length album and a concept album about the Algonquin folklore from creation mythos (“Against the Northern Wind”) to apocalyptic prophesies (“A Seventh Age of Fire”), is the project’s first release to feature Grushenka Ødegård on vocals, with Cryvas and Grushenka being joined by guest musicians Aaron Maloney (This or the Apocalypse) as their session drummer and Lilith Astaroth (Sorrowseed) lending an ethereal voice to “Halle Ravine”. Featuring a classy cover art titled “The Wendigo”, designed by British illustrator Frank Victoria, The Sachem’s Tales will certainly please all fans of the more atmospheric side of extreme music fused with folk elements, especially the ones who love the sound by bands like Agalloch, Falls of Rauros, Moonsorrow and Coldworld, among others.
Midewiwin Lodge, a serene instrumental intro led by the acoustic guitars by Cryvas and spiced up by elements from Mother Nature, sets up the ambience for the melancholic and gripping To the Great Salt Water, with the contrast between the piano and the blast beats perfectly supporting the gentle voice of Grushenka and the growls by Cryvas, enhancing the impact of its fairy tale-inspired lyrics (“What shall I tell our children? / Tell them our story / Tell them who they are / Far beyond the mountains / Where wild-men roam / Over the raging river’s foam / Follow the Whiteshell west”). Put differently, this is a beautiful rollercoaster of emotions crafted by Dzö-nga, going from deeply enraged moments to slower passages of pure tenderness. Then in The Wolves Fell Quiet what starts in a calm mode with the suave notes of the piano embracing our souls suddenly explodes into magnificent Atmospheric Black Metal, with Cryvas growling and gnarling like a hellish entity. Furthermore, multi-layered waves of blackened sounds mixed with ambient music turn listening to this tune into a distinct and dense journey through darkness.
In the acoustic ballad Halle Ravine, it’s time for Lilith Astaroth to give life to the song’s poetic lyrics, bringing hope and melancholy at the same time to our hearts, with the song’s smoother sonority also showcasing how versatile Cryvas is as a musician; followed by Against the Northern Wind, where blast beats ignite a flammable fusion of Atmospheric Black Metal with Folk and Dark Metal, once again presenting paradoxical elements that create a unique experience to the listener. Moreover, Cryvas’ demonic roars and Grushenka’s angelical voice complement each other in a superb way, making it impossible not to feel touched by all sounds blasted by the band, all reaching deep inside our hearts and souls. A Seventh Age of Fire brings forward almost 10 minutes of top-tier extreme music by Cryvas and his crew, where Aaron not only proves he’s a rabid beast behind his drums, but he also displays an extremely refined technique, therefore adding tons of intricacy to the musicality. And effectively complementing this stylish aria, Cryvas offers us all some epic church-inspired pipes, with all instruments converging to a climatic acoustic ending with the song’s lyrics yet again coming from a dark and thrilling fairy tale (“Be brave and you will be protected / Be wise and you will be rewarded / (Hear in our silence that we are at peace / Our mantle passed to you) / Light again the ancient flame / Lead our people back home”). And before all is said and done, we’re treated to the instrumental outro The Witching Meadow, a song that contains several elements found in Folk Metal, with its kick-ass piano notes generating a comforting atmosphere to end this fantastic album in great fashion.
You can enjoy this fairy tale of Extreme Metal in full on YouTube, follow Dzö-nga on Facebook, listen to their other creations on SoundCloud, and obviously purchase The Sachem’s Tales at the band’s own BandCamp page, at the Avantgard Music’s BandCamp, on Amazon or at Discogs. Having said that, let’s hope that this gargantuan, hazy creature named Dzö-nga keeps haunting not only mountain Kangchenjunga, but everywhere else in the world where high-quality metal music is appreciated for many years yet to come.
Best moments of the album: To the Great Salt Water and Against the Northern Wind.
Worst moments of the album: None.
Released in 2017 Avantgarde Music
1. Midewiwin Lodge (Instrumental) 2:35
2. To the Great Salt Water 8:49
3. The Wolves Fell Quiet 7:23
4. Halle Ravine (feat. Lilith Astaroth) 4:04
5. Against the Northern Wind 7:16
6. A Seventh Age of Fire 9:23
7. The Witching Meadow (Instrumental) 3:26
Cryvas – vocals, all instruments
Grushenka Ødegård – vocals
Aaron Maloney – drums (session)
Lilith Astaroth – vocals on “Halle Ravine”