“Ni Tsarya, Ni Boga”: Koldovstvo’s Enchanting Black Metal Entertains Neither Gods Nor Masters (Review)
Time is immaterial where music is concerned; music can evoke another world, another period, and even another planet, immersing you wholly in a story and surroundings far removed from your current situation. Music is an escape and Koldovstvo, a band as mysterious as the headless princess at the beginning of her death adorning their album cover (a segment of a Konstantin Flavitsky painting depicting a soon-to-be-drowned imposter to the Russian throne), give themselves over to the otherworldly presence that cloaks their debut in enchanting shadow and ethereal light. These contrasting elements are filtered through bewitching melodies, haunting clean vocal lines and rustic production methods which produce a feeling of warmth, as though the record was recorded by the luminous glow of the hearth while the inhuman howls reveal a cold and unforgiving illusion that lies just beyond the comforting flames.
The authors of Ni Tsarya, Ni Boga prefer to remain anonymous and instead allow their music to be at the forefront of the conversation. Signs point to Russia or another Russian speaking country in terms of the band name (witchcraft in Russian) and album title, and while the vocals are not clear enough to fully make out which language, if any, is being spoken, the atmosphere that Koldovstvo produce with this first foray into the black metal world is enough to create a great deal of interest. Ni Tsarya, Ni Boga roughly translates to “No King, No God” and is a play on the old adage of “No Gods, No Masters,” which Koldovstvo certainly brings to their sound. There’s a sense of the “other” surrounding the record which seeps through the rough textures of the guitars that, despite not being exceptionally clear in tone, present an element of the hypnotic in their repetitive progressions. There are no Gods here, as tradition reigns and old legends light the path to absolution.
As “I” signals the dawning of a new era, Koldovstvo uses unceasing guitar lines to create a sense of wonder and as the music pushes forward and those harmonies underpin echoing, harsh vocals, the mesmerising, magnetic element of the band truly reveals itself. Koldovstvo write songs with trance-inducing capabilities as the focus and the first song on the record achieves this using melody and repetition to seize the mind. Initially beginning on brighter guitar tones, the song soon segues into rougher territory as a single cry ushers in the true sound of Koldovstvo. There’s a distinct pastoral feel to the songs on Ni Tsarya, Ni Boga in the sense that it evokes a time that many have long-forgotten, a time where fire was the only source of light and warmth and stories and legends were the only way to fill the long, dark hours of winter. The magical knowledge of elders was passed down around ritual bonfires and dances were offered in exchange for a ripe harvest. This is the world Koldovstvo have recreated with their own offerings to an older, simpler time.
The opening of “II” captivates in its leading folky cadence which summons the ritualistic dances of the old world to the fore—believers moving in radiant synchronicity as the music travels further into the psyche and evokes a personal expression of faith.Letting go of the ties to the present and allowing this ceremony to captivate you through affecting rhythms and delicate intonations promising salvation will allow full immersion in Koldovstvo’s supernatural work. Although, that salvation is often replaced by fear as the malignant howls that Ni Tsarya, Ni Boga offers at unexpected moments dominate the atmosphere and gives the record the sense of being a conflict between good and evil, darkness and hope, the known past and the unexplored future.
The songs of Ni Tsarya, Ni Boga are wrapped in intriguing ambiguity as the lack of clarity in the words used means that the crux of the band’s objective is open to personal interpretation. Whether these songs are incantations to destroy or rebuild this old world is something that Koldovstvo are keeping to themselves—screams are given as much space as gossamer-spun vocalisations and there is equal weight lent to both the appalling darkness and the slither of light that occasionally is allowed to shine. The cyclic guitar patterns of “IV” burrow deep into the mind while the song is drenched in a sorrow that feels tangible; clean vocal lines bloom from the depths of anguish, fleshed out with an all-consuming melancholy that serves to add more gloom to these already dark spells while the pained howls of an unnamed vocalist search for a path through twisted folklore.
As Ni Tsarya, Ni Boga progresses towards the discordant, mournful synths of “VI” through the somewhat more aggressive timbre of “V,” Koldovstvo bring about a sense of closure with guitar inflections that are both familiar and unusual—the feeling that these movements have been heard before and not at all is one that leaves an uneasy, eerie sensation in the mind. Is this a clever trick by a band that are resistant to even identify themselves—or an old, rough magic that has long been buried?
Ni Tsarya, Ni Boga was released March 5th through Babylon Doom Cult Records (LP/CD, EU/ROW), Extraconscious Records (LP, US), and Fólkvangr Records (CS), and is available via Bandcamp.