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Rising from the ancient and misty Carpathian woods of Slovakia, a frighteningly archaic entity has once again bared its fangs at the dismal world of underground occultist black metal. Presenting their first new material since 2017’s full-length Nordkarpatan, Bratislava’s blackened old-school warlocks Malokarpatan unleashed the Cesta podzemnými sálami Kovovlada EP, a proclamation of lurking evil and foul hideousness delivered through soundscapes that conceal a surprisingly lush sonic range within their obfuscated aesthetics.

While the group’s latest foray into their darkly ritualistic brand of pagan metal was originally unveiled through an independent digital release last summer, a tangible format of the EP will now finally see the light of day via a physical release by Sun & Moon records, who will distribute the record on 7” vinyl. Split into two tracks respectively entitled "I" and "II," the EP represents Malokarpatan’s simultaneous exploration of adventurous new concepts and a starkly traditional interpretation of the genre, with a striking contrast elicited between the two styles. Its theme centers around the mythological tale of Kovovlad -- master of the underworld and its treasures -- who abducts a maiden from the world of the living to become his bride. This narrative is reflected literally in the music, which aurally illustrates the maiden’s temptation, entrapment, and ultimately her horrific fate.

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With its first half standing as a work of crepuscular atmosphere the Cesta podzemnými sálami Kovovlada EP's first track begins with ominous, cavernous ambient tones that creak and bubble up from blackened chasms before being relieved by gentle, ethereal synthesizers soon joined by shimmering bells and echoing metallic pangs. By the track’s halfway point, however, the space occupied by these warbling, brassy textures becomes claustrophobic and disorienting, underlain by obscure and distant crashes that writhe and gasp beneath the swarming din. This noise continues to build and spill over into harsher and more chaotic forms before breaking away to reveal the primal savagery of the following piece.

The transition from "I" to "II" marks a complete and utter tonal about-face, with the electronic, dungeon-synth-esque scenery of the former immediately falling away into the more straightforward (yet still highly dissonant) traditional blackened death-march of the latter. Rife with the fatalistic stoicism of and obfuscating grime of true cult black metal, "II" drags itself along at a fuzzy, plodding pace, punctuated by a deliciously reverberating snare and soaked in the electric barbed-wire tone of Malokarpatan’s hypnotic riffs.

Despite its relative brevity, the Cesta podzemnými sálami Kovovlada EP stands formidably against Malokarpatan’s already impressive catalog as a harrowing descent into the group’s blend of arcane wisdom and feral, animalistic violence. For those seeking an especially raw and grizzled interpretation of gutsy underground black metal, this EP will undoubtedly serve as a majorly satisfying entry into the subgenre’s sinister archives, pleasing enthusiasts from across its dismal spectrum.

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The Cesta podzemnými sálami Kovovlada EP releases April 8th in vinyl format via Sun & Moon Records.

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