The Smashing Skull Sessions

The Smashing Skull Sessions is a podcast, interview and review website, set up to showcase and support the underground rock and metal scenes. Our goal is to promote artists and bands from right across the globe, giving them another voice and another forum in which to get their music out to a greater audience. We also have a new review series, The Review Room, which is another unique way of getting bands and artists some extra coverage and promotion

Úkryt - 1897

Here is another band I discovered just by seeing the artwork somewhere online. That stunning black, white and grey image sucked me right in and I found out it’s an album called 1897, by the Australian band Úkryt. It’s said that all photography on the album was done by @bm.aesthetic, but I can’t find any certainty that this person is also responsible for the front cover. The band itself consists of two members M and S and they did all the compositions, performances, and production. A debut EP, Řeka, was released in 2019 and the type of music these Aussies play is described as instrumental black metal. Along with the amazing artwork that description made me even more curious!

1897 is said to be a canvas. A blank canvas that is to be colored in by the listener’s own interpretations. No words, no themes, no narratives. It was created over the last three years, right in the middle of global turmoil. My interpretation process has already begun... Just like they did on the first album, M and S secluded themselves somewhere quiet and remote so that all they had to focus on and put their energy into was on creating this piece. And it turned out a masterpiece if you ask me.

The album contains two long songs: 1897-pt.1 and 1897-pt.2. The first one lasts 16:19min and the second one 17:13min, with a total duration of 33:33 minutes. The opening two minutes are pretty mellow and meditative when suddenly the album cracks open with fast drumming and speedy melodic tremolo riffing. The term instrumental black metal makes sense during the minutes that follow. The tempo changes now and then and the melody comes and goes when the tempo speeds up again. Five minutes later the music breaks and flows into a peaceful guitar part with tranquil drums. A beautiful atmospheric solo echo through my brain and later, the heavier guitars layer up again. Then a weeping Pink Floyd-ish guitar bridges to an explosion of full-speed-ahead, heavily layered, post-metal density, that slowly echoes away, and the song finally ends with the soothing sound of waves on a beach that come and go. WHOEHA, what have I been listening to so far? Nothing less than an evoking and immersive journey that leaves me puzzled, amazed, energized and emotive. A journey that went inward and outward. Sometimes melancholic and introspective, other times uplifting, externalizing and even a tiny bit of destructive aggression if you will. Well, to speak for myself, that’s a journey I recognize for sure when I look back on those pandemic years and the impact they had on me. Feels great to have music that resonates and acknowledges that point in time.

And we still have another half to go on this musical journey. 1897-pt.2 continues where Pt.1 ended thus with the sound of waves. Transcendental meditative synths accompany the waves and the next minutes I’m in higher atmospheres. Perfect passage to put my noise-cancelling headphones on to reflect and contemplate while doing some breathing-techniques. Staring into the fire with a good craft beer in hand would be another tempting possibility though. Then the music gradually transitions. The drums are getting a bit more active, and guitars are coming in and getting louder while the bass is heavy. Layers on layers result in a bombastic mid-tempo post-metal wall of sound. This passage transitions again into a moment where the drums fall silent, and the dissonant guitars interlude the fastest and heaviest part of the album. Crikey, mate! They are going beserk in there, those drums are inimitable, just plain awesomeness. Although the tempo goes down just a bit later, the last minutes continue to keep you on the edge of your seat, because all instruments seem to go in a different direction, and yet they find each other again perfectly (like the masters in Year of no Light are able to do so as well). Then the heaviness stops and in the last seconds of the album I inhale my retention breath and I fall back in my seat. Floored, overwhelmed, impressed. This is executed so perfectly.

Album of the year so far for me! This album has it all. Like written above, there’s so much going on here and so well executed. A wide range and diversity within the spectrums of black metal, post-rock and metal. Merely the term instrumental black metal is not fitting anymore, I think. Compared to Řeka more post-metal influences were incorporated, with the perfectly balanced result that is 1897.

The album is released by their own Starved Light label and an LP and longsleeve were already pre-ordered to ship from the land Down Under to the lands Nether. I can only assume that with this album European or US labels will contact Úkryt very soon to sign them to get their fantastic music even more widespread. Do yourself a favour and check them out.