DZÖ-NGA — The Sachem's Tales (review)

DZÖ-NGA — The Sachem's Tales album cover Album · 2017 · Atmospheric Black Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
siLLy puPPy
DZÖ-NGA (zone-gah) is yet another of many one-man black metal projects. This one was created in 2016 by the multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Cryvas who comes from Boston, USA. THE SACHEM’S TALES is the second full-length release finding Cryvas providing the talents behind the guitar, bass and keyboards. Aaron Maloney sits in as a session musician on percussion. Cryvas provides the male black metal vocal raspy shrieked vocals while Grushenka Ødegård provides the other half of the beauty and beast effect with her operatic diva touch. Lillith Astaroth likewise guests her vocals on the sole track “Halle Ravine.” Like the debut “Five Treasures Of Snow,” THE SACHEM’S TALES explores melodic atmospheric black metal that incorporates classical piano with electronic ambience creating lush contemporary classical melodies before the distortion of the black metal fury erupts over them. Focused on world mythologies, the debut delved into the world of Himalayan folklore, while THE SACHEM’S TALES creates a concept album about the creation mythos of Algonquin folklore. The Algonquin were the original peoples who inhabited the Northeastern and Central upper regions of the US and Canada. DZÖ-NGA’s music appears on the Avantgarde label where more famous black metal acts like Dark Sanctuary and Darkspace exist.

THE SACHEM’S TALES is a real treat to listen to. As with all atmospheric black metal, the elements can succeed or fail with slight margins of error. In the case of this concept album, it all works out quite well as the tracks build upon strong melodic hooks based on classical piano runs accompanied by symphonic electronica that creates harmonic counterpoints while the female vocals lure you in like a siren on the calm and placid seas. It’s only after the tracks are firmly implanted into your head that then do the black metal parts erupt out of the abyss but whereas many atmospheric black metal bands will bury the other elements and allow them to dominate, DZÖ-NGA plays the great balancing act with careful precision as to let the melodies and root elements to shine through like rays of light even when the stormy black metal clouds should filter out every ray of light. This approach keeps the melodies staunchly rooted in the listener’s mind and to be honest the main draw as the actual atmospheric black metal formula isn’t exactly an original thing any more. In fact some of the repetitive keyboards lines remind me a lot of Summoning’s approach on albums like “Dol Guldur” with an epic sweep of lush keyboards and symphonic counterpoints.

Another factor that works in the album’s favor its that it isn’t too long. Some of these types of albums can go on way past the point of comfort but THE SACHEM’S TALES seems to be the right length with seven tracks ranging from less than three minutes to over nine in length. The variations of the keyboard runs keeps the melodies distinct and interesting as well despite sticking to a formula for the album’s duration. While all the tracks are pleasant i find “A Seventh Age Of Fire” stands out as it uses the lush keyboard and symphonic effect to reel you in and then employs bombastic black metal guitars with Cryvas’ vocals becoming more extreme and furious but there are counterpoints with clean vocals and they tradeoff as well. The symphonic elements are extremely strong and well-mixed into the overall sound. THE SACHEM’S TALES is primarily based in Western classical music hooks but well written ones that never disappoint. The black metal elements are almost secondary and primarily used for contrast rather than bombast. The album has a gentleness to it despite bona fide outbursts of energy and much more interesting than some atmospheric black metal albums that seem to use a repetitive loop for the foundation of melody. However a lot of time is spent to the classical parts with no metal at all. THE SACHEM’S TALES is a satisfying stream of melodic flow that perfectly conveys the concepts at hand despite the indecipherable lyrical content.
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