Lingua Franca Reviews #3 – Black Hawk / Tsjuder / Vonavibe / Cloak

Lingua Franca by Matias Melim

Two months later and here we are back it again! In this edition (and probably the next one), besides the shorter intro, we’ll change things a bit. Instead of focusing on bands of a single genre, we’ll go for to bands of a lighter extract, and two from a heavier one.

Black Hawk – Soulkeeper

Throughout the course of the hobby of reviewing music there comes a time, sooner or later, when you have to review an album which simply just doesn’t click with you. So either you try to spin your comment in a way that tries to avoid the elephant in the room that is the bigger part of the album that you “hate” – making you an hypocrite – or you’re brutally honest and come out as a snob douschebag reviewer that thinks he knows music better than the actual musicians. In the case of Soulkeeper by the band Black Hawk, I’ll try my hardest to be respectful but also to be honest about my experience with it.

In short, I really didn’t like it. While the band tries to capture some of the magic/ambience of the 80’s Heavy Rock/Metal era, it ends up focusing on some of its least liked aspects. Despite good quality moments – as is the case of the guitar-led moments, which are really good – they tend to be subdued by the style of vocals, which for me was by far my least appreciated part of the album. Obviously, I don’t mean to attack the vocal capacity of the band, I’m just expressing opinion, however it’s evident that some parts could have been much better delivered (probably due to decision, and not because they weren’t capable). This is specially the case with Warzone, where, aside from the chorus, everything is sung in a way that borders the annoying. Now in regards to the choruses… why are they so overused? The first track, Soulkeeper, gives us a good idea of what to expect for the biggest part of the album: you get a double choruses (“SOULKEEPER, SOULKEEPER”,) and not 50 seconds pass and already it repeats. This would probably be more discreet on a shorter tracks but this one is four minutes and a half. I get that it tries to pay tribute to an older tradition of metal, but in this case I think it’s overdoing it.

Again, I hate making reviews like these, because I know a public comment, no matter how small, can demoralize a band and that is not what I intend to do with these reviews. However, while I hope this band grows in its journey, I also have to be honest about disliking this work. (2/10)

Tsjuder – Helvegr

Now, how about a band you can’t even pronounce the name of? Here come Tsjuder (“pronounced “Shoo-der””, extracted from the holy book of metal, Metal Archives), a Norwegian black metal duo with almost 30 years of career – interrupted by a pause of four years in the middle – that now present their sixth album, Helvegr.

Helvegr is a very intense album that forms itself around that style of music which follows an almost narrative development to the point of being felt that each song is connected with the previous and next ones on an deeper and less evident level. A point that deserves to be praised is the fact that this album shows plenty of inventiveness in its presentation on a track-by-track basis, this being plainly obvious on the introductions of each song. If you ask me this “starting aspect” is always a positive aspect as some bands of the heavier genres tend to start all of their pieces in the same way: blasting every instrument and letting/hopping that the listener find his or her own organization, however this is not the case with Helvegr, as it is, dare I say, smarter album, on how it presents its contents. However, outside of these moments of creativity and flexibility, there is one thing that Tsjuder made sure remained constant in their work and that is the hellish “soundscape” that never lets go throughout the whole of its duration, an aspect that, as far as I know, is a brand of this band.  Overall, it’s a great piece to break some of the routine music with some aggression that doesn’t go all the way to the tasteless music of some more extreme styles of metal. As such, it’s a very heavy album however it’s palatable to those that don’t usually dabble on these more intense genres. (8/10)

Vonavibe – Bleed to Life

Hailing from Greece, Vonavibe are a trio formed in 2016 that define themselves as a “heavy modern rock band”.  I’ll start by pointing out that, at least in my opinion, this “modern rock” label applies as a whole to a brand of rock that was popularized during the early 2000’s. So, this being a modern rock band is in reference to that style of music than it means that their style of music sets to be a new type of rock… and this was good news to me, as I got somewhat nostalgic after hearing their latest release, Bleed to Life.

Bleed to Life is a rock album composed of seven tracks with an average duration of a little more than four minutes per song. Its style, as mentioned, belongs to a more recent approach of rock reminiscent of the beginning of the century. To further illustrate this point, this is a style of music that’s not too far from the type that we used to hear when WWE wrestlers entered the ring ready to pummel each other. So, as it was also common with that type of music, all the elements tend to blend together in a very compact mix where it’s very rare to see/hear bigger focus being given to a single instrument – everyone moves as a solid group. Of course there are moments here and there that end up being reserved for a single instrument while the others take the back seat, but they are too far in between for one to notice. As whole, Bleed to Life has a “changeling” mood, but being a product of an era, it also has the obligatory sentimental track right in its middle (actually they’re two). All in all, it was an interesting piece to listen to and my complaints can be reduced to just things I dislike about the genre itself, not this actual work. (7.5/10)

Cloak – Black Flame Eternal

To finish up, we have Cloak! They’re black metal band that has a very much appreciated vein of goth metal in its core that gives a very concise form to their music. This’ll be the review of their third album, Black Flame Eternal, released last May.

First of all, the tone of this album, despite its uniqueness, will set the bells ringing to some listeners, namely those in Portugal. And why is that? Because the sound of this band, specifically the vocals, reminds a lot of “earlier” Portuguese, Moonspell (so, already we’ve started off on a positive note). When it comes to atmosphere, Black Flame Eternal marks itself as an evidently inspired construction owing its success to the dramatic capacity of goth music and also to the intensity of black metal, showing how much this genres complement each other. It’s an album that mixes quick and heavy sounds on one side and “awe-strucking” moments on the other, giving even a little bit of space to more somber tones that show lot of personality by the band. There aren’t many albums here that I’ve listened to after making their reviews – and I have been commenting for some time already – but this one surely is entering my playlists, for it is rare to find a work with so much substance as this one. (9.5/10)

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