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Monday, September 26, 2022

Review: Silent Kingdom – The Shadowless Queen

Label: Sarajevo Disk

Date: April 15th, 2022

To simplify matters at the very start, on “The Shadowless Queen” Silent Kingdom performs a combination of progressive rock and metal, heavily influenced by their native ethno motifs. The accent being on the fact that it regards only this album. So far, at least. The previous one excluded the progressive metal from the equation. The one before that excluded rock, but added extreme metal to the progressive nuances. Before that one, it was more extreme, but less progressive. And so on… Backtracking Silent Kingdom’s discography is a quest for the roots of the band that actually survive to this very day, even if harder and harder to spot. Almost impossible if you find music a way of easy entertainment, rather than a serious art form.

For instance, in my review of their previous record, “Where Secrets Meet”, I’ve written that it’s somewhat of a Silent Kingdom unplugged project. The point being that it’s still Silent Kingdom, but in a new light. “The Shadowless Queen” goes a step further. For those familiar with this, almost a quarter of a century old band, this album could be described as a progressive metal Silent Kingdom. It could, but it shouldn’t, since there’s more than that involved.

First of all, Silent Kingdom has ever been an ambitious musical adventure. Literally, even at their most predictable, one could hardly know what’s next. So, who could’ve expected a single, thirty two minutes long track? Even if it’s divided into six chapters, it is still a constant flow. A circle if you will, ending almost where it started. Or a spiral which, incidentally, is a fairly common symbol on old Bosnian headstones, traditionally referred to as “stećak” monuments. And what do you know!? Silent Kingdom’s “obsession” with stećak monuments is the base for the concept behind “The Shadowless Queen”. Talk about hitting the nail on its head!

Okay, it’s not all about the monuments, per se. Silent Kingdom looks further into the symbolism of stećak monuments and the depictions on them. For more of a graphic description you can try and browse for Radimlja necropolis.

It’s not even the first time this band looks within their own folklore traditions for inspiration. They’ve done so ever since they (the band, not the headstones) emerged. The ethno music is the one link between all of their releases, whatever the layers on top of it may have been. And that’s exactly where Silent Kingdom’s mastery lies. Majestic incorporation of folklore elements into extreme metal, progressive rock, jazz or even pop music. Whether they are wrapped in the coating of mentioned genres or laid on top of them, in the final score they give out an incredulous painting of the geographic area, its history, archaeology and anthropology. The orient meeting the Slavic tradition, Christian influences and western pop culture, all fused into one diverse picture encompassing a country like no other on the planet. If you enjoy comparisons, you will be disappointed. Mostly because whatever band name I throw at you, I would have to add that it’s been “silentkingdomized”. That’s how unusual, unheard of and original Silent Kingdom is, with its influences ranging from neoclassical through jazz and blues to heavy, progressive and even extreme metal. Of course, and I cannot emphasize it enough, all of them laden through and through with folklore and traditional motifs.

Lyrically as well, one has to look into the seemingly endless mixtures of various beliefs, pantheons and human strivings for eternity of life here and forever afterwards. The infinite struggle to appease the old with the new. Even the science has never been quite successful in fully comprehending the heritage of Bosnia & Herzegovina. As for Silent Kingdom, it sounds as if they understand that their heritage and ancient, as well as modern, culture relies more on the feeling than the actual physical manifestation of life and death being parts of a natural cycle.

And that’s what “The Shadowless Queen” sounds like. It’s stripped of the catchiness of its predecessor, devoid of extreme metal shackles, or any other bonds that might bind them to a certain point of reference. The album leaves the conclusion wide open, as the spiral I’ve talked about above. It explodes into many differing solution that all stem from the same root and ever expand into many possibilities we, as species, will never be able to fully grasp. Just like any listener will likely never grasp “The Shadowless Queen” in full, with all of its road signs leading into separate directions and opening different roads to take. I’ve myself been spinning the record for days now and am still finding alternate routes to a wide spectrum of understanding it.

Also, reading back at what I wrote, it could seem that “The Shadowless Queen” is a rather incomprehensible pile of notes. But it’s not, far from it. It is music personified by each segment of the band member’s inner being. Hence, it might seem confusing that so much has found its place within so small a timeframe. But I must return to the clumsy wordplay I’ve made before. It’s music silentkingdomized. No other band is capable of this. This is music that should be included in formal Bosnian education system. It should be nurtured as a world heritage. “The Shadowless Queen” is Silent Kingdom finally enthroned!