Label: Blood Fire Death
Date: March 17th, 2023
When it comes to trendy black metal I’m the one to miss out on it and then arrive at the “crime scene” way too late to witness it firsthand. Yes, I’m that guy who imagines himself buried deep in the underworld and all too proud to succumb to current development of the scene. “Give me old school until my ooga-booga does the ooga-booga I need to ooga-boogy me”. Something like that.
Anyway… That kind of approach to music (and life in general) rarely turns out to be the right one. For instance, the first time I heard the name Harakiri For The Sky, I dismissed it as rubbish, just for having that weird name. Then when I saw them become a band of significant stature I further dismissed them for being this hyped up act that will last a season and then disburse as many before. And then I heard their music which made me lick all the places I’ve spat upon.
It all happened to me way too often, before and after, so why am I mentioning the “Harakiri incident” on this particular occasion? Well, mostly because Litost claims to stem from the same root as the famed Austrians. Thankfully, and to shatter any illusion you might have, the Spaniards have opted not to blindly follow but to advance, enhance and generally leave a footprint on the basis of “Harakiri sound”.
Another thing… Of course, Litost doesn’t just take from the Austrians. They’re not that shallow. There’s a healthy dose of primal Scandinavia in there. Taake is mentioned in the press release and it is definitely a good suggestion, as are Ulver, Borknagar… Or Mgła for that matter. Though this type of mixture does sound intriguing, this is only the appetizer and a fairly simple one at that. A detail here and there and not much else to speak of.
It still needs to be clarified that Litost, on the second full length recording, presents ideas that are not all that familiar. Far be it from calling them extremely original, but the tracks do show that there is something which might lift the band up high. However, it would seem like it remained underdeveloped.
Take a listen to the opener, for instance. “Tromba” starts you off with an almost frantic guitar solo and takes you on a journey of melodic brutality one can hardly resist. Yet, it’s been done before. Tried and tested. Even if Litost offers decent musical pieces you cannot say you’ve heard countless times before, they are not likely to get you to heights you yearn if at all inclined towards Groza, Harakiri For The Sky or Deathspell Omega.
However, halfway through the record something happened. Just when I thought this will be another good but not too spectacular CD which will spend my lifetime on the shelf. As if Manri, the band’s leader, heard it too. Track five and onwards, we get the same foundation of sound, black metal just slightly on the melodic death metal side, but the build-up changes considerably.
Insert progressive elements, some uneven rhythms and different riffing patterns. Still, most notably, there’s this dramatic insurgence of folklore motifs. It’s not that they’re subtly infused, no, they take an extremely significant role in the overall soundscape, as well as in the song arrangements. Almost to a point where you can dub the second half of “Pathos” a folk black metal record. Litost doesn’t lose focus from the black metal origins, but these insertions are what the band needed as an identifier.
What’s more, these pieces of folklore legacy also come from two differentiating sources. Manri is apparently a connoisseur of his local history and is not afraid of using it to his band’s advantage, taking influences from the Muslim, Middle-Eastern tradition and mixing them with Iberian, Mediterranean ones. Such a combination, in addition to heatwaves of extreme metal, perfectly depicts what Valencia represents in the artistic and historic books of the world.
Unfortunately, I don’t have the opportunity to see the lyrics to “Pathos”. Even if I did see them it is a question whether I would understand them, as I’m not well versed in Spanish language. And judging from the press kit that accompanied the CD, Litost is on a wholly different agenda than looking over their shoulder to their local history and cultural growth. They seem to have a much deeper, philosophical and existentialist questions on their collective minds.
Whatever the truth may be, it still doesn’t deter me from having my own view of the art Litost presented to the world. As far as I’m concerned, Litost came up with a couple of EPs. The first one being a good yet quite standard attempt at a harmonious, melodic and grimly atmospheric black metal. And the second one is a marvelous exercise in all of the above lifted above and beyond by a dive into the local musical folklore. As a collection, they give out a sense of a band more than capable of a massive breakthrough. Wait and see.