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Blackbraid – Blackbraid I

blackbraid – blackbraid i


American Folk Black Metal has some pretty strong names in the genre already, namely Agalloch and Panopticon, known for their wintery harsh sound yet lush mix of acoustic moments to really make one feel the grasp of nature. Then there are others like the small run of Nocturnal Poisoning albums that were done by renown Depressive Black Metal legend Xasthur that were completely folk with almost no black metal and turns the genre on its head. It is nice to see bands like these pop up that can help give a genre where almost everyone assumes bands like Dark Funeral, Burzum, and Rotting Christ carry the torch for what they assume they represent: Satan or neo nazi themes. Blackbraid is one of these theme/ genre turning bands. Formed in 2022 by Sgah’gahsowáh, this guy takes Folk Black Metal in a direction that honors his Native American culture. A little bit like Wayfarer’s ‘World’s Blood,’ but more to the point. ‘Blackbraid I’ is his first album, but from the looks at it there will be more chapters to come.

As far as the music goes, Blackbraid does feature the typical Black Metal touches that groups like Abbath and Agalloch bring to the table. Its harsh, but not overly harsh, well produced enough with the slight buzzsaw tinge to the guitars and throaty snarls alongside the thunderous drumming (provided by Neil Schneider). There is melody to the riffs so it doesn’t quite feel like a raw blizzard storm, and the pace is rather accessible with its fast to mid approach. It is the acoustic tracks though that really bring out the Native American influence, like ‘As the Creek Flows Softly By.’ Like Panopticon, a lot of these instrumentals are a little repetitive, but the use of acoustic guitar mixed with the flute works great together and really brings out the ‘folk’ side of Black Metal in a way different from wind samples or acoustic guitar alone with some clean vocals. Blackbraid does seem to keep the folk elements pretty separate from the Black Metal though, as tracks like ‘Sacandaga’ feature no holds barred as it rips through like a heavy storm, but features plenty of melody still with a lot of similar approaches to ‘The River of Time Flows Through Me’ as far as the riffs go: starting out heavy then mellowing out a bit in the middle before picking up again. Being the album’s single, ‘Scandaga’ is a great example for those who like their Black Metal with no frills, and yet not quite the icy, fuzzed Mayhem sound. The balance of harshness and softness- even without the presence of acoustic instruments- is pretty consistent throughout the album all the way through.

The closing ‘Prying Open the Jaws of Eternity’ is the highlight of the album as Blackbraid tries another approach. After a more electric/ acoustic instrumental, ‘Prying…’ comes off almost more as a death doom track (walking along Novembers Doom sound a bit) with its very slow approach to the riffs and bellowed vocals, something very different than what Sgah’gahsowáh has shown with his vocals so far on the album. Then the track leads into a bit of a Punk section with more melodies and a bit of that Gaera ‘Mirage’ touch for its ferocity. Along with its 10 minute run time, this is a big track to stomach, but well worth the listen and leaves a lasting impression. Overall, Black Metal fans in general should be pleased with what Blackbraid has to offer. Alongside lyrics that offer introspection rather than hate, even those well versed in Folk Black Metal should appreciate that the band avoids the typical tropes of the genre by not adding in the typical ‘Black Metal riffs, acoustic interlude, Black Metal riffs again’ or ‘filler acoustic track with clean vocals.’ The acoustic moments on the album are a bit predictable and simple, but still emotionally loaded. While it seemed like Panopticon had its hold on the genre for most unique approach with its Americana Black Metal sound, it seems like a new contender has entered the genre as ‘Blackbraid I’ has introduced its own unique spin that instantly makes it stand out compared to others.


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