Blackbraid jolt emotional gust into atmospheric black metal on nature-laced opus ‘Blackbraid I’

Black metal that celebrates the atmosphere and our lush surroundings has become plentiful, which is not really a complaint as the style of music can be utterly uplifting while it’s breaking your bones. Yet, with so much of it in circulation now, not all of this type of music hits how it should. It embodies nature, but if it doesn’t overwhelm you with power, the point is missed.

That’s not a worry when it comes to “Blackbraid I,” the debut full-length from solo black metal project Blackbraid, as every moment of this thing rushes and blows you over, even when the passages are calmer and more reflective. Helmed by Sgah’gahsowah (pronounced SKA-Gah-SoW-Ah) handles guitars, bass, flute, vocals, and compositions, and he pours fiery inspiration from his home in the Adirondacks and pays homage to indigenous people, whose plight in America is bloody and rooted in oppression. These six tracks storm with passion and should light sparks among those who indulge in bands such as Panopticon, Nechochwen, and Wolves in the Throne Room. This is a great debut album, one that hints at one of black metal’s new great forces.  

“The River of Time Flows Through Me” begins with waters rushing before the guitars soak, and the playing tears open, letting the spirits fly free. Sgah’gahsowah’s howls absolutely crush as the melody hits new heights on the chorus, ravaging with passion and eventually fading back into the waters. New energy jolts out of that, the drums blister, the guitars race, and everything lands where it all started, in the mouth of a stream. “As the Creek Flows Softly By” is a quick instrumental with acoustics and flutes sending cooling breezes into the arms of folk-inflected passages that fade into the night. “Sacandaga” ruptures and rips, the playing wrecking everything in front of it. The force blisters while the vocals wreak havoc, gloriously unfurling heaviness overwhelms, and the shrieks tear into serenity. The pace explodes anew, the flute haunts, and everything blasts to a satisfying finish.

“Barefoot Ghost Dance on Bloodsoaked Soil” has guitars swirling and trudging, ripping up the earth beneath it. Blinding fires are stoked as an emotional gusts carry the smoke long distances, eventually settling into the earth and reconnecting before reengaging with the chaos. From there, the playing rushes dangerously, the growls gurgle and destroy, and the final moment pounds blood into the earth. “Warm Wind Whispering Softly Through Hemlock at Dusk” is an instrumental cut with calming acoustics, distant chirps, and an electric haze creating a fog curtain. Steam heats and rises, jostling your bloodstream as we pull into 10-minute closer “Prying Open the Jaws of Eternity” that begins with a thunderous assault. The growls mangle as the track slowly burns, increasing the intensity as wave after vicious wave pulls you under, making you witness worlds previously unseen. “To walk the sacred path!” Sgah’gahsowah wails as the energy fills your chest, hissed growls bury you in rubble, and the guitars blaze, leaving a river of ashes behind.

Sgah’gahsowah scales the Adirondacks for inspiration and turns that into this incredible full-length debut “Blackbraid I.” His delirious and infectious blend of atmospheric black metal grabs you with force and keeps you tuned in through these six tracks that have so many peaks and valleys, your emotions will feel fully exercised when the record ends. This is a promising and exciting first full chapter for Blackbraid, a project we’ll be incredibly interested in following through each level of its development.  

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