HOLDAAR "Times Stretching in the Sky"

It is certainly obvious that Russia is a vast country but they have an underground Metal scene to match. There are countless Metal bands in the Russian federation and it is impossible to keep up with everything they have going on in their part of the world, no matter how hard you try. I offer many thanks to Russias More Hate Productions, an underground label that highlights bands from that country with the most potential. Unfortunately I do not feel like they really have hit bulls eye with Kaliningrad-based, 2-man act Holdaar. Holdaars 8th studio album "Times Stretching in the Sky" is Folk-inspired, symphonic and Russian-language Black Metal that obviously takes its influences from early Arcturus (especially the Aspera Hiems Symfonia era), but it does not raise my interest due to a lack of creativity. There has been a notable effort to make things work but, somehow, nothing really sticks out no matter how hard you try to like the album. The song "Times Stretching in the Sky" is more of what Holdaar needs as the chords go through your eardrums causing moments of sheer enjoyment. But that is about it and there is no need for further comment about this release, I am afraid.

HOLDAAR "Aegishjalmur"

Russian Black Metal act, Holdaar, formed in Kaliningrad in 2004 by Skilar "Holdaar" Velesson (also in Moongates Guardian), is a two-man band that cannot be accused of resting on their laurels. Holdaars whole recording catalog is pretty huge; they have recorded 16 (yes, 16) full-length studio albums, several EPs and demos during their career of 12 years. In addition to that, there is even seven compilation albums, so these two fellows know how to keep themselves busy. Aegishjalmur is the title of the bands 15th full-length studio recording and it is more than about some ravishing grimness and darkness musically: it is also about ravishing beauty of music in general as the songs are filled up with some deep emotions and melodies. Some of the songs even have this soundtrack-ish feel of the dark ancient times to them. The texture of the song is all about churning out Black Metal without boundaries. It is all about pushing the envelope a little bit, about stretching a familiar sound out of peoples comfort zone, which Skilar has also accomplished well on this ambitious album. Vocalist Alexey holds some true raven-croak quality, and in a way, the combination of his harsh vocal parts, mixed with Skilars genuine compositions, all reminds me of Arcturus debut album, Aspera Hiems Symfonia. Besides Holdaars own songs, Skilar also covered Forests "Einherjers Reich" for this album, which could well pass as an Holdaar song if I did not know any better. Also, Skilar ended up covering Iron Maidens classic "The Trooper", which sounds somewhat interesting. And by "interesting" I mean I am not quite sure whether he has played the solo part in this one by himself at all. It sounds like he has simply sampled the original solo part in for this cover because it does not differ from Adrian Smiths solo one damn bit. Anyway, the song has been covered zillions of time before, but it is actually the first time I hear it sung with harsh Black Metal vocals. So, the final question is whether Aegishjalmur is worth checking out? You bet it is.

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