There is perhaps no more insuppressible force in nature than a volcano. Eruptions destroy the works of man and nature using a variety of elemental weapons, sometimes swiftly and sometimes through crawling inevitability. Lava oozes its way down slopes, erasing and essentially resetting everything in its path. Stopping this unthinking-yet-intensely-determined force is impossible. Acrid ash clouds rain rapidly down upon surrounding areas, destroying through heat, suffocation, and ice as it blocks the sun’s rays.
The debut album from Tchornobog is volcanic. It kills through creeping certainty as often as it blasts listeners into oblivion, always focused on eradication regardless of the tempo or specific type of attack. Even the album’s serene moments carry an air of tension and terror. Always waiting is the next phase of carnage. When and how it will arrive is unknowable, but it is inevitable.
That Tchornobog achieves such convincing darkness and malevolence on its debut is not surprising; the project is new, but Markov Soroka is more than a little experienced. His churning, atmospheric black metal with Aureole and funeral doom with Slow have quite obviously informed Tchornobog, a combination that makes The Ruins of Beverast the most convenient comparison. However, Soroka distinguishes himself by largely eschewing Alexander von Meilenwald’s arthouse tinkering, and most importantly by adding a huge dose of violent, cavernous death metal.
Opener “Hallucinatory Black Breath of Possession (Mountain-Eye Amalgamation)” throws a massive maelstrom of black and death metals at the listener — swirling tremolo riffs, bottom-feeding grooves, chaotic soloing, and massively echoed vocals — within just the first four of its 20 minutes. If these moments are like the sudden chaos of a natural disaster, the ensuing near-funeral doom is the horror of the situation sinking in. The lumbering passages are melodic yet towering, continually descending further into terror, making the return of blasting and some well-placed leads feel truly earned. At first, the song doesn’t seem like it quite justifies its extensive runtime, but when it exhibits a hint of resolution, only to snatch it away, it becomes clear that traditional songwriting isn’t the only thing at play here. Exhaustion matters.
However, that is the moment when Tchornobog begins to feel less like four songs, and more like a continuing series of otherworldly metal passages that sometimes feel perfectly natural in their progression, and at other times feel as if they could be swapped around with little harm to the overall quality. “Hallucinatory Black Breath of Possession (Mountain-Eye Amalgamation)” offers slight changes in the faster moments (it almost… rocks?), and sounds much more hypnotic during its slow moments, but reflects the opener’s faster-to-slow-to-faster path. Closer “Here, At The Disposition of Time (Inverting A Solar Giant)” has a pretty massive finish, but begins with a very familiar black/death twitch.
The only song that really feels unique is “Non-Existence’s Warmth (Infinite Natality Psychosis).” With its pretty saxophone and gently bobbing rhythms, it is the glimmer of hope within the album’s otherwise apocalyptic setting, hinting at the world-building and renewal that follows a volcano’s destruction. To Tchornobog, however, this is nothing but a ruse. The aforementioned closer brings back the violence, and thankfully provides a fittingly harrowing finish with it’s tick-tocking countdown towards the final death blow.
Short of absolute compositional perfection (typically neither an achievement nor prime goal of such long-song bands), huge moments such as the finale can overcome most limitations. Tchornobog nails the big hits when it absolutely has to, and overall wins through a polluted atmosphere, alien aura, and often gripping tension. At times, the album is like a violently active volcano, leaving everything black and lifeless. At others, it is like the “gateway to hell” at Erta Ale, merely a glimpse into a mostly unseen realm of even greater terrors. Go for a swim.