2. WHITE WARD, ‘Love Exchange Failure’ (Debemur Morti)

Deep relationships with black metal albums largely don’t start by letting them sink in while you’re staring at the Atlantic Ocean while sitting on a beach in nearly perfect weather. But that’s our story with “Love Exchange Failure,” the second album from Ukrainian black metal band White Ward, who inject a world of musical texture and emotion into a genre that used to scoff at such things (well, some aspects of the listener base still feel this way, having not grown up). It was in late August, while vacationing in Delaware that I spent my initial time with this album, and it washed over me mentally and physically, as I sat and listened over and over, once on a very early morning sojourn to just reflect.

In creating the thematics for the record, the band thought about how involved our lives have become, how many people have lost the ability to love (not sexually, necessarily) other people, and how that affects us mentally. It’s a heavy thing to mull, and when you think of how our lives have devolved, especially socially, the idea is worth considering because we’re likely all guilty. That is why they named the record “Love Exchange Failure” because it observes people using more hatred than love when dealing with other people. Using this record, that is a seven track, 67-minute epic, lets the band apply different sounds and textures to their atmospheric black metal, another way in which they—vocalist Andrii Mai, guitarists Yuriy Kazaryan and Mykola Jack, bassist Andrey Pechatkin, drummer Yevhenii Karamushko—dig into your mind and make you think of things in ways you maybe haven’t before.

The title track starts the album with the sounds of urban life as sirens cry in the distance before keys and sax meet up to add to the ambiance. Three minutes in, the song explodes as Mai’s vocals rip out, and emotional trauma is spread heavily. Calm later returns as the music breezes and keys drop, and then the fires ignite anew, with wrenching vocals and pulsing drums. The track continues to punish as guitars and drums charge, but then things are swallowed into a jazzy mist as the song fades into the night. “Poisonous Flowers of Violence” has gazey dripping that sets the mood before things fully erupt. Melodic riffs and spiraling playing join with Mai’s harsh cries, with the song utterly waylaying with power. Gruff growls give off a guttural jolt before rain picks up, and the soft sax arrives again. “No Cure for Pain” revels with delicacy as the track takes time to get moving as a mood is established, and at about 3:35, the playing get shredded with growls smashing and the tempo destroying. Sounds mash into an epic solo that again brings back the feelings of metal’s glory years before the hammers drop all over again, and the vocals pelt the flesh. Sax playing mixes in with the thrashing as the group joins up in rousing “ah-ah” calls, and deep crooning from Vitality Gavrilenko goes for the chest before the shrapnel is spewed all over again. Closer “Uncanny Delusions” also brings different winds, as clean guitars flow generously, and vocals from Ivan Kozakevych (with his thick Ukrainian accent) add a brassy, elegant feel to the song. Eventually things blow apart, and the metallic attack arrives, complete with Mai’s wrenching screams. The meaty mashing always melds back with shadowy playing, feeling like a fog is taking you to a haunted place. This is a mesmerizing experience, a true example of how elegant and emotionally devastating a black metal record can be here at the end of the decade. (Sept. 20)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/whitewardofficial

To buy the album (North America), go here: https://debemurmorti.aisamerch.com/

Or here (Europe): https://debemurmorti.aisamerch.com/

For more on the label, go here: https://www.debemur-morti.com/en/