The Ukrainian one man-institution Zgard, unmatched when it comes to folk-influenced atmospheric pagan black metal, now reveal their fifth album, titled Totem, which is dedicated to the Veles, the old Slavonic god of sorcerers. Dipped into a conspirative and penumbral atmosphere showing a foggy and fiery scenery of rituals, the listener is taken on a journey that’s fast-moving and opaque. The interplay of speeding drums, torrential vocals, and acoustic elements such as light flute, plucked guitar, and airy voice interludes promise an alternating bath of emotions. If you like to be drawn and drowned by such a folkish mood, Zgard will make your day.
The decision to form Zgard was taken by Yaromisl in autumn 2010. At this time, he was finishing the recording of Goverla’s second album, which, due to various reasons, he decided to release under a new name. The quest for a name wasn’t long: Zgard is a synonym for “amulet” in the culture of Huzuls, an ethno-cultural group who for centuries have inhabited the Carpathian mountains. Yaromisl wears such zgard from the time he obtained one in the Carpathian highlands and until now.
The Zgard debut album, The Spirit of Carpathian Sunsets, was intended to be released in 2011, but the release date eventually shifted to 2012. In recording this album, Goverla’s flutist Hutsul took part, who recorded parts of woodwind instruments. The album includes not only the songs written for Goverla, but also a new track which gave a title to the album and formed a concept and the style of Zgard: atmospheric black metal with strong influence from Carpathian folklore and a pagan outlook.
Without wasting any time, Yaromisl worked on the next songs for a second album, Reclusion, which was released in January 2012, even earlier than the debut. In 2013, the third opus, Astral Glow, was released, but activities didn’t slow down: Zgard took part in a split CD, Ascension: Paramatman, with Romanian band Prohod, which was released in February 2014. Work then began on a new album.
At the beginning of 2014, with help of a session drummer and vocalist Dusk (Stryvigor, Endless Battle), the recording of the fourth full-length album, Contemplation, was finished. It was released in June 2014 by Svarga Music as a standard CD and a digipak limited to 100 copies. Right after the release, at the end of summer 2014, Yaromisl starts the recording of a new opus, Totem, dedicated to Veles, the ancient Slavonic god of sorcerers. In 2015, the recording sessions were finished, and release is scheduled for November 27, 2015 by Svarga Music – as before, in standard CD and hand-numbered digipack limited to 100 copies.
Zgard is truly a remarkable phenomenon in the Ukrainian metal scene. Geographically located far from Ukraine’s music centres, like Kharkov and Kiev, Yaromisl managed to create his own unique style. Is it the nature of the Carpathians, or residence near the mountain Bogit, where was located a Zbruch Idol (9th-century Svetovid sculpture and one of very few monuments of pre-Christian Slavic beliefs), which so influenced Yaromisl to create the music of Zgard? Either way, the result speaks for itself! Cover and tracklisting are as follows:
Tracklisting for Zgard’s Totem
1. Dismal Visions (intro) [Марево] 2. Land of Legends [Край легенд] 3. Descendants of the Thunder [Нащадки грому] 4. Totem [Тотем] 5. Sorrow [Журба] 6. Forgive Us Nature [Пробач природа] 7. Dark Lord of the Carpathians [Темний володар Карпат] 8. The North [Північ]