New Dutch Black Metal band Zwart is a side project of some of the members of Occult Tilburg band Ibex Angel Order. Their debut album entitled ‘Heem’ was released mid way through 2022 on CD by Void Wanderer Productions. ‘Heem’ is an old Dutch word meaning home, though it leans more towards a more spiritual home or the land of your heritage. The album is a bleak and monochrome slice of nostalgia for a time and place long forgotten by many; a yearning for ancestral times and a desire to reconnect with ancestors and the land of our roots.
In truth Zwart really do convey that message well through their music. There is a whimsical attraction to the bands free flowing, haunting guitar melodies that even though the guitar leads accompanying them are made up of harsh grating tones, and even though the drumming display and vocal work are gruelling, punishing beasts of greyed out harshness, they still manage to flourish and ensnare with their beautifully graceful yet barren sounds.
Primarily a Black Metal album, ‘Heem’ takes heartily from the more atmospheric realms of both Black and Doom Metal to create something truly melancholic. A prime example of this would be ‘Of Gods, Man and the Spirits of the Dead’, which sees Zwart embark and a slow, processional journey through the dense mists of time to engage in something far more existential than mere nostalgia. Here the guitar rhythms are slow, mournful and respectful; the vocals a deep throated roar combined with powerful spoken word like chants similar to My Dying Bride. The bass play and drumming style combine to provide a backdrop of rumbling sturdiness.
At other times this album takes on a more predatory mantra and sound such as during the poignant and feral sounding melodies of ‘Van vaders vaderen’ (From father’s father’s). What I find impressive about ‘Heem’ though is the bands adherence to keeping the whole album gruelling, desolate and bleak, not unlike the world around us. A powerful and emotive debut album for those of us who like the colour and vibrancy leeched out of life from time to time.