Abaddon magazine

Music magazine

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Review: Uzemljenje – Bestrag

Label: One Records

Date: August 21st, 2022

This started off quite bad. Or maybe not bad, but rather confusing, weird. I mean, check out the cover art. Do you think it’s more appropriate as a back cover? Printing the track list on the front is rarely seen. If ever! While pondering on that, try and find the band’s name on the front cover. It’s a bit easier with the album title, but the contrast that hid the word Uzemljenje on the gear shift stick makes it almost undecipherable.

So, the thing that sticks out on the front cover is the track list, while the band’s name remains hidden and the album’s title is of lesser importance. Also, I’m still struggling to grasp the meaning of a gear shift portrayed on the same cover. The album’s title roughly translates to “nowhere” or “without trace”, though it bears a more ethereal meaning in Serbian language. And, at least from my perspective, nothing to do with shifting gears. I expected some hard rockers, with “living on the road” cliché abused to infinity.

However, and quite luckily, I got something very much different. So, “the bad” I mentioned above ends with the very first note Uzemljenje pressed on this piece of plastic.

Far from being unique, or ringleaders in the specific music style they selected, Uzemljenje show up with all the tricks gathered in their decade long existence. Furthermore, it doesn’t take all too careful listener to gather all of the band’s influences. Their local, Serbian crowd will quickly pick up on Block Out musical theses and the unmistakable Nikola Vranjković’s poetry that “Bestrag” is soaked in. If you’re not from around here, and have no clue about the two mentioned above, you can try picturing Alice In Chains, but in XXI century, i.e. their recent works. Something like that. A post-grunge setting, though the record might even be a hint at a distinction Uzemljenje is looking to achieve.

Most of all, I’m thinking of an extremely heavy production work that leads one to think of contemporary bands striving for traditional heavy metal sound. Hints at stoner rock are very subtly inserted here and there, but only to further entrance the listener into music that urges a large dose of repetitiveness. Naturally, I’m not talking about any sort of minimalism here, as the repetitiveness in question is masterfully broken down with colorful rhythms in abundance on “Bestrag”.

Of course, in this setup you cannot quite speak of any catchiness, but there’s plenty of room for atmospheric wanderings. Now, in this regard, Uzemljenje is fairly successful. However, there’s this one thing that I find somewhat unforgivable even in their influences mentioned above. It’s the stillness of the voice. The vocals run and hide in melancholy and are drenched in hopelessness. Which, in my book at least, is good enough if your music and lyrics are calling for it. But there are more than a few lines on “Bestrag” that are quite wrathful and deserve an angrier voice to “confirm” them. Not even Mr. Vranjković is expressing this as well as I would like, though, truth be told, he has much fewer moments that deserve such tones than Uzemljenje.

Be that as it may, I still very much enjoy “Bestrag” in all its respects. Except the cover, of course, but hey, at least that aspect of the record is absolutely unique. Uniqueness aside, this album is the result of many years of musical exploration and Uzemljenje has the job figured out. These seven tracks are crafted, arranged, performed and produced with a whole lot of skill and it shows all throughout the audition. If they can manage what Mr. Vranjković can, up on the stage, in a live setting, the band can become the next attraction that will be able to tour Belgrade over and over again, selling out the venues easily. Yet, the last and final problem with Uzemljenje is that they are now over a decade old and this is their second full length record, but had it not been for a chance meeting with this CD I still wouldn’t have heard about them. Where are they hiding? And why would anyone hide such a gem?