BLACK FRIDAY: Revel In the Multicultural Безглуздість! (Absurdity!) of KRUKH
Markov Soroka (Tchornobog, Aureole, Drown) and Nizam Salimbayev, two members of the newly-minted Krukh, came from lands far away. From the ashes of Soviet Russia (Ukraine and Uzbekistan, respectively) the two found their way to St. Louis. For Soroka and Salimbayev, immigrants to the United States, the pair soon became friends. "Nizam and I met each other and bonded over the fact that we were both strangers in a strange land, speaking Ukrainian, Russian, and English, trying to make our way," Soroka says. "We just happened to both have an interest in black metal."
Krukh slowly came together a few years ago. Soroka contributes vocals as well as bass and a level of guitars while Salimbayev handles lead guitar duties. Shawn Eldridge (Death Fortress, Ruinous) soon joined to play drums. Soroka continues in his statement saying, "We always knew we would work together on something, but it took an incredibly difficult and depressing winter of 2015 for us to finally be motivated enough to make something out of all of it. The result is an existential soundscape with which we make our mark with."
Indeed, Krukh makes one hell of a mark. Their first full-length effort, Безглуздість! (which translates to Absurdity! in Ukrainian) is a deeply personal bridge between an Eastern view of humanity and their experiences in the United States so far. "Even though we're both well assimilated, deep inside there's still a disconnect with the outside world that sometimes can make existence appear bleak," Salimbayev describes. "There's still a yearning for things—a feeling that just lies deep within. We both had a good understanding of it, and our disposition spilled into the riffs. This kind of led us to the idea of the human struggle and its cyclic repetition through age and time. This emotion, I think, is pretty unique to Eastern Europeans. We were trying to capture that and sort of explain that to the western listeners at some point. This all comes within personal experiences here in this country."
The riffs Salimbayev mentions aren't the only part of Krukh's music that stands out. There is a striking amount of atmosphere throughout the record by way of ambient passages in various tracks. The lengthy closer, "Голод (Famine, Ukrainian)", is a brilliant example of this. Salimbayev and Soroka's guitar interplay creates layered tremolo picking and riffing throughout much of the song, but it's the final moments as the instruments fade away that take hold. Elsewhere, glimpses of Eldridge's chops in Death Fortress emerge. "Бесмысленность (Meaninglessness, Russian)" embodies what makes Eldridge a phenomenal drummer. His command over blistering rhythms and patterns are flawless.
Soroka manages to find a completely different vocal register for this new project as well. It rests between the vomitous growl of Tchornobog and the more classical black metal vocals that are on Aureole. His first scream on the opening title track made me go back and double-check he was actually the vocalist. Though Soroka's individual brilliance shows in Krukh, it's the complete team effort which makes Безглуздість! so enthralling. Double guitar harmonies, a gritty low-end, and ominous samples all make every moment of this debut impossible to skip.
Another remarkable aspect of Krukh and Безглуздість! are the lyrics. Soroka sings in the same languages that he and Salimbayev speak—Ukrainian, Russian, and English. The feat presents an interesting challenge, but one Soroka overcame. "When people read the lyrics, they may notice that some of grammar or pronunciation may or may not be broken," Soroka admits. "At first, writing in Ukrainian and singing in Ukrainian was daunting simply because it's something I'm still learning how to write. Having spoken it in a, let's say, non-poetic way all of my life, I finally felt up for the challenge. Though, I have to say, getting intoxicated in the studio when doing vocals made this process a lot easier! I think metal is one of the very few genres where people appreciate bands yelling in broken English, I think it has some kind of strange magic in it.
He goes on to quote "A Vinter Breeze" by Vinterland, a melodic black metal band from Sweden. The lyrics of which are not well understood—or translated—but go something like, "The dark in this forest. Once again it reach to my depth. My hands/heart are/is full of winter, A cold and icy winter. My/A ??? bleed, far beyond the sun, this kingdom will forever/never lay aside (?????)"
"For some reason it's perfect! You can tell the emotion is there and the music suggests the effort is there also," Soroka exclaims. "It could also have to do with the fact that that album is actually also amazing musically, but these goofy lyrics somehow make it fine. I think a lot of bands in metal started using English as a means to be more easily found/understood back then, and the result is… interesting at the very least, from a linguistic perspective."
While Vinterland's lyrics may be goofy according to Soroka, Krukh's words and overall ethos are not. In fact, it is quite emotive and empirical. "We wanted to have some anger, some unresolved retrospection in it," Salimbayev says. "To be honest we weren't putting a lot of thought into it at the very beginning but as we went along it almost started talking to us and opening views with different angles. It pushed us to put in even more and eventually, it became really personal for all of us. We realized that despite incredibly different backgrounds, we're not so different after all."
This is ultimately what stands out most about Krukh. They're a trio of very gifted musicians that come from very diverse backgrounds. Still, they managed to find each other and build a musical expression that embodies their heritage and their ideas. It also makes it better when that musical expression is so greatly executed as well. As if there were any doubt, Krukh's debut quickly became one of the most unique black metal releases of the year.