Less than a year ago there was this one-man Native American black metal band that came down from the Adirondack Wilderness and conquered the extreme underground scene at once with the self-titled debut album Blackbraid I. Band leader and founder Sgah’gahsowáh soon formed a real band around himself and they started hitting stages in the US and on European festivals. Leading to an expansion in their fame, and later on a new record announcement was made. Blackbraid II was self-released in july.
It’s always hard to release your sophomore album after it was so well-received. Critics are extra critical in awaiting to see if the band can live up to the hype, and fans are anxious to see if the first album was not just a lucky shot. Well I think everybody can relax now: II continues where I left off resulting in yet another strong and fresh atmospheric black metal album.
There’s twice as much to enjoy since the duration of the album has been doubled to somewhere around 66 minutes. All well-known Blackbraid ingredients are present again: acoustic passages, indiginous flute, nature sound sampling, blasting drums, tremolo picking, melody, groove, guttural and harsh vocals. The songwriting is from that same, interesting level. The production and sound is the same, and the artwork is in the same line as the debut album. If there’s two little criticisms I have on Blackbraid’s work, it would be that I don’t understand why you have such fantastic, long and fitting songtitles, yet you name your albums as unoriginally I and II. Secondly, the artwork is too sketchy for my liking. With themes about mother nature and the beauty of earth, one could bring that back in the frontcover to truly make everything fit together I think. But my humble opinions do nothing short of the kick-ass music, which is the most important thing of course. Let’s have a look at the album shall we?
The ten songs are strategically arranged: a short acoustic instrumental as opener, Autumnal Hearts Ablaze then come two long tracks, then another short instrumental with acoustic guitar and flute, Spells of Moon and Earth, two longer songs follow and then another semi-acoustic with flute instrumental Celestial Passage and the album finishes with two long ones, followed with the cool Bathory cover track, A Fine Day To Die to end it. This way the album is nicely ballanced in black metal heaviness and indiginous peacefullness.
After the instrumental opener The Spirit Returns explodes in your face and the song confirms that the spirit of Blackbraid is back indeed. A howling wolf opens the third song, The Wolf that Guides the Hunters Hand, a very powerful fast song with a majectic battle feeling to it, and one of my favourites.
Moss Covered Bones on the Altar of the Moon was one of the singles and at over 13 minutes long, it’s a killer track that starts in a midtempo groove and after a flute passage, builds and accelerates.
The repeating melody in A Song of Death on Winds of Dawn is catchy as hell and a fantastic foundation in the extreme fast and blasting song as it is. Very tranquil mid-section with flute and semi-acoustic guitar with the fast part after that having a certain Uada vibe to it. Yet another excellent song.
And there’s more where that came from! Twilight Hymn of Ancient Blood’s first four minutes dwell in blackened doom pace, but then suddenly transitions into a blackened Death Angel thrash metal rager. Awesomnly done and already a fan favourite in live situations I reckon. Sadness and the Passage of Time and Memory is an intense midtempo song with nice guitar solo work and a great one to finish of the own Blackbraid material. The earlier mentioned killer Bathory coversong closes the album.
Blackbraid is back and here to stay. Fans of the first album can go blindly on this one and get even more of what they already loved. New fans will be made with this banger of a new album, that’s for sure. Going to be one of the best black metal records released this year. Horns up!