Strange thing with the new album of Popiół (Ash). Although its a “debut” of the band, this material was originally recorded after 1996 debut album of Thy Worshiper titled “Popiół (Introibo ad Altare Dei)” and some of the songs were supposedly done for the second album of the band. Its worth to notice that band Popiół consists of ex members of Thy Worshiper and also current ones. Queation is why did they wait 20 years to record and release that material? Who knows. More important question is if music defends itself after all those years. I must admit I never heard the debut album of Thy Worshiper but I’m familiar with their music and my favourite of their newer relases is “Czarna Dzika Czerwień” which is on my shelf and it doesn’t gather dust. So obviously there will be some similarities and comparison to that album is unavoidable rather than to 1996 debut.
So what can you expect from “Zabobony” (Superstitions)? Quick look at the cover art which shows female version of Leshy (Witcher games fans will guess straight away) which is the guardian and master of the forest in Slavic mythology and you will know what are they playing. The music its a mixture of Black Metal with folk deeply rooted in Polish pagan folklore. And Popiół is a example of a band that makes that pagan/folk type of Black Metal, not only by lyrics and throwing occasionally here and there some old instruments from samples but they do it with their whole music. So very rarely you will hear a blast beast or wall of buzzing sound. Core of the music is atmosphere and melodies weaved with some Black Metal and acoustic guitars. What really catched my attention is the bass. Very well recorded and mixed, it fills the space perfectly. I can hardly remember a Black Metal album with bass guitar in it that is so good. And I must admit that this mix of Folk and Black Metal works perfectly for me. To tell you the truth if “Zabobony” would be released after Thy Worshiper 1996 album it would be something in those days and an instant classic.
Question is how much of core material is in those songs and how did they change in those 20 years. Unfortunately we will never know and during those years there were some really good and innovative albums. So if it goes to comparison with modern Thy Worshiper the biggest difference is the lack of female vocals. Other than that, what can you expect when half of the band is in today’s Thy Worshiper and other half used to be in it. You guessed correctly, the music which very similar. Is that a bad thing? If you like folk infused Black Metal with Eastern European influences the answer will be “no”. And if you like old/new Thy Worshiper minus female vocals again…”no”. You will find Popiół’s debut album quite interesting. And to tell the truth if somebody would play this album without telling me name of band I’m sure i would say it is new material of Thy Worshiper.
To wrap it up its not bad material neither is it revolutionary. Really a solid “debut” album of veterans that wont turn most people head towards it which is a shame as those songs grow on you the more you listen to them. But on the other hand this its the kind of music you can play to fans of different metal schools and everybody will be happy. Its not the most dark Black Metal, its not the soft one either. It just flows naturally with the mood and the best way to explore those sonic landscapes are long trips to the deep woods. Make it on your own or with somebody you will appreciate that specific atmosphere of “Zabobony”. (Sulphur)