They appear with a bang - and things don't get any quieter from there. Some of them have hit the bigtime and appear alongside the world’s biggest stars, securing places as legends of the genre. Here are contemporary Polish artists on the metal scene, artists who perform music that some listeners are simply scared of.
Belzebong in concert at the Progresja club, photo: Rafał Kudyba
Melancholy, depression and pent-up rage - these are the feelings that accompany the work of Katowice-based quartet Furia (Polish for of Fury). Although the band started up in 2003, its first LP came out only in 2007. The title of this first record is Martwa Polska Jesień, meaning Dead Polish Autumn, (a play on the idiomatic Golden Polish Autumn which normally praises the season’s colours). The three words practically define the band’s style. Furia stands out among other black metal bands with the atmosphere they create, as well as their zealous energy and great performance of highly poetic lyrics. Their way of bringing out the music is telling and authentic in a way that runs against all the black metal band cliches of grotesque performance.
The authors of tracks such as Idzie zima (Winter is Coming), Ślepy dzień (A Blind Day) and Płoń! (Burn!) are masters of suspense, which they succeed in creating with complex twists of melody. Furia has released three LPs and six mini-albums, each of which leads the listener further and further into the dark forest of their own souls. It is interesting to note that the musicians of Furia also take part in other projects, such as Duszę Wypuścił (He Let Go of his Soul) which draw on the dark depths of Polish folklore.
Founded in 2008 in the southern town of Kielce, Belzebong released the record Sonic Scapes and Weedy Grooves 3 years later. The album proves that in spite of the country's strong anti-drug lobby, Poles are capable of producing the most consistent stoner-rock compositions, which have everything that is expected of them and nothing more - joyous in its simplicity and repetition of slow, "fat" riffs. The weight of Belzebong’s music is enhanced by vocals as the steadily advancing monolith of sound is intertwined with samples from old horrors and anti-drug campaigns. Belzebong draw inspiration from early Black Sabbath and Electric Wizard, Weedeater, Kyuss and Shrinebuilder. The band of five has toured the UK and boasts good reviews in international zines.
They arrived with a bang on the Warsaw metal scene in the beginning of 2008. Since the start, Obscure Sphinx have lived up to their name and escaped any obvious genre classification, drawing on doom metal as well as post rock. The effect of this mix is a sound based on powerful riffs and irregular rhythms, enriched with the intriguing atmosphere of a synthesizer and a poignant feminine voice which goes all the way from whispers and murmurs to shrieking and painful screams. It is a very original setup, even when juxtaposed against bands from Western Europe and the US.
Obscure Sphinx were very much appreciated at the 2012 edition of the German Summer Breeze Open Air festival, winning the main prize in the New Blood Award category. To date, the band has released one LP, Anaesthetic Inhalation Ritual, which came out in 2011 and echoed with popularity across Poland, now gaining recognition also outside of the country. Their second album titled Void Mother was released on the 15th of November, 2013. This young and quickly maturing band will surely delight and surprise lovers of original music.
Thaw are in fact one of the few European bands to have breathed some life into the petrified genre of black metal, pushing it in the direction of audacious and contemporary sound, evocative of Sunn O))) and Esoteric. Unlike most artists that draw on post-rock to enliven black metal, Thaw make the atmosphere dense and fill it with black smoke. The experiments of the quartet - who also come from the southern regions of Poland, namely the town of Sosnowiec - go in the direction of incorporating noise and drone. Even if this is a relatively old concept, Thaw are especially skilled in its execution, creating landscapes of heavily distorted guitar sounds, immersed in all kinds of extra effects. Their first album presents the many ways in which powerful black metal riffs can be combined with drone.
The best set up for listening to Blindead is while sitting in your own cozy living room drinking a cup of hot tea. The pessimistic lyrics, coarse, screaming vocals and wide, slow soundscapes are capable of soothing even the most melancholic thoughts. The Impulse EP was recorded by Blindead in 2009, and it is a record that can be played on repeat thanks to its excellent production and compositions. Their 2010 LP, Affliction XXVII II MMIX is also very well produced, and it is definitely more complex in terms of composition. It is therefore less accessible, and at times even disturbing, but it is also one of those records that demand another hearing – proving that the musicians’ imaginative talent is blossoming. Blindead have toured with Nyia, Antigama and Tehace, and supported Neurosis in April, 2009. In mid-October 2010, Thaw toured across Poland, promoting their new album Absence.
They provide a well-delivered portion of interesting death metal. With the release of two albums with the French Listeable Records, Awakening of the Liar and Anaclasis – A Haunting Gospel of Malice & Hatred, this Warsaw-based group began touring across Europe and later in North America and the US. In August, 2013, Hate played at the Brutal Assault festival in the Czech Republic, where they performed in the company of world famous stars.
The band has been playing together since 2001 and performing progressive rock, drawing on all the broad and vague aspects of this genre. Riverside are often associated with the classics of rock, such as Deep Purple and Pink Floyd. On the other hand, they often declare to be inspired by Tool. The tracks created by Riverside could be described as calm and elegant. Loose Heart, from the 2003 record Out of Myself has made it to the Polish Radio 3 Top Hit Chart, and this ensured the band a good start. Their subsequent album, Second Life Syndrome was listed 22nd among the best selling records in Poland. In 2007, their Rapid Eye got recognition in the Netherlands, and the 2009 record, Anno Domini High Definition gained the status of golden record. In spite of their huge success in Poland, Riverside tour abroad more often than they do locally. Their latest works were often hits in Germany, Belgium, Switzerland and Finland. They also boast an array of awards, such as the 2005 and 2009 Metal Storm Award for the the best progressive metal record. Riverside supported Dream Theater during their 2011 concert in Katowice.
Founded in 1997 by Dariusz Daray Brzozsowski, Tomasz Orion Wróblewski and Filip Heinrich Hałucha, the music they create is described as symphonic metal, due to their use of organs and keyboard instruments. With the release of Distractive Killusions in 2007, the band began to develop fully. The first album mixed strong riffs with grotesque motifs. Soon afterwards, due to its members’ other engagements the band suspended its activity. Orion began playing in Behemoth, Daray joined the Norwegian band called Dimmu Borgir and Heinrich started to rehearse with Decapitated. Although Vesania has played some concerts in 2011, it hasn’t written any new material.
Masachist are musicians known for their performances in other bands: there is Daray, who played with Dimmu Borgir, Heinrich (who also played with Daray in Vesania) who is active in Decapitated, together with Pig, the third member. Masachist's music is described as death metal, but their extremely fast percussion and the slower, accentuating guitar are very much grindcore. The band has recorded two albums, one of which was especially well received. Although their sound is not original, Masachist makes up for it with its brutality.
Founded in 2007, in Oleśnica near Wrocław, Entropia skillfully joins all the best features of contemporary alternative music: from the raw quality of the vocals and the meaty percussion typical of black metal, through the postrock atmosphere of the guitar’s ethereal sound, to - at times - a highly weighty death-doom atmosphere. The year 2013 was a great period for the band. In February they released Vesper, with six tracks, and in early May, they performed at the Asymmetry festival, the only event in Eastern Europe devoted to the musical avantgarde. Entropia are a band that will inevitably make themselves heard!
With their Tranquility EP, Outre are clearly progenitors of the contemporary black metal scene. Yet, their compositions seem to defy the rules of this genre. Their music is capable of evoking surprise with the metal core and post-metal inspirations it employs. It’s vigorous, unobvious, dense, and yet, clear and understandable.
Created in 1996, it was started by three teenage music school students: guitarist Wacław Vogg Kiełytko, drummer Witold Vitek Kiełytko and the vocalist Wojciech Sauron Wąsowicz. It very quickly began to make its name as the most recongisable bands to play technical death metal. Each of the five records by Decapitated is distinct, but every one makes a great impression with the craft of the musicians’ performance and the original compositions. The band’s list of achievements is very long. In 2000, their first record, Winds of Creation, was released by Earache Records, Nottingham, UK. It was produced by Piotr Wiwczarek, the founder of the legendary Vader band. Thanks to this initial configuration, Decapitated became recognised especially in the English-speaking world, including the US, where Earache also has offices. The second album from 2002, Nihility, received great reviews in international magazines such as Metal Hammer and Kerrang! Thanks to this succes, Decapitated performed at Ozzfest in Poland alongside Ozzy Osbourne and Slayer. It was during this period that they created their video, shot in Hollywood, and promoting the single Spheres of Madness, which quickly became the band’s trademark. A true breakthrough came with the Organic Hallucinosis album, with the first appearance of new vocalist, Adrian Covan Kowanek. The 2006 record comprised tracks that broke with the death metal convention. The complexity of the compositions, both in their rhythmic and harmonic aspects was an omen of a new, heavy and crazy aesthetic.
Witold Kiełtyka died tragically in October, 2007, in a car accident during the band’s tour of Eastern Europe. Adriad Kowanek went into a coma after the accident, and this sad event resulted in a two years’ break of the band’s activity. Their fifth album, titled Carnival is Forever was released in 2011. Apart from Vogg, Filip Hałucha performs on it playing bass, Kerim Krimh Lechner plays percussion, and Rafat Rasta Piotrowski is on vocals. Decapitated have played concerts across the globe, playing alongside bands such as Children of Bodom, Fear Factory, Lamb of God, Meshuggah, and Aborted, and have garnered a crowd of devout fans. Their sixth studio album, Blood Mantra, is set to be released in September 2014, and will be the first to feature bassist Paweł Pasek and drummer Michał Łysejko.
Author: Filip Szumowski, 5.11.2013, translated with edits by Paulina Schlosser, 18.11.2013