Voice of Native Blood
Deviator, helmed by a figure known only as Lord Hastner, has worn a path through the black metal underground as something unique and meaningful. While the bulk of solo bedroom black metal acts have trodden the long-covered grounds of raw production value and Darkthrone riff knock-offs, the essence of this Ukrainian act has followed many of his own countrymen while harkening back to the old-school as well as a hybrid style with other genres that are not commonly associated with black metal. While most other acts tend to pummel away with blast-beat ferocity with little deviation from such molded predictability and riffs that seem to wind down to nothing but tremolo-picked punk scores, Deviator has seemed to take it upon himself to suitably deviate from such genre constraints.
Voice of Native Blood stands as Deviator’s second full-length album and is a moderately more evolved and mature album over its predecessor, Mighty Black Inner Flame. While the style is analogous to the former album, there is a greater strive for a shamanic, ritualized atmosphere. While the songs tend to be rather ferocious and upbeat, existing on the upper spectrum of the mid-range speed, Voice of Native Blood could easily be encapsulated into what could be considered as blackened “ritual thrash”. I can dissect this album to find a bounty of healthy influences, ranging from Blood, Fire, Death-era Bathory to the vague motifs of acts like Agalloch. Underlining these rich atmospheric and thrashing grooves, punk influences as well as intensive ritualized drumming are enough to not only create a diverse album, but strengthens a lot of what the debut album sought to do and magnifies it. Epic synths have become much more prominent in the mix than what was found on Mighty Black Inner Flame, and further pushes the album’s emotional pull. While the trademark pseudo-melodic death metal tendencies do find brief moments here, they are never as prevalent as they were on the debut or this album’s successor, Fehu-Fohat-Fire.
All the instruments are rather audible and sit well in the mix, allowing for tenebrous acoustic passages and synths to build up unique atmospheres with precisely programmed drums which have been woven into a tribal pulse. However, unlike the former and follow-up albums, the audio quality for the guitars are rather sterile and feel lifeless. The tonality is heavy but there just isn’t enough bite to get the jaws of Fenrir to be taken seriously, and the vocal performance here is by far the weakest example within Hastner’s catalog. Reverberation could have been added more thickly to give them more depth and warmth, but they just sound off when compared to the mournful staple that his voice seems to embellish. While his raspy snarls are as audible and clean as his other albums, the vocals just don’t sound as full-forced. Also, Voice of Native Blood contains somewhat sluggish melodic patterns as well as harshly forced transitions that jump from heavy metal to atmospheric acoustic and synth sections. For an album of this caliber, the feeling of contrived transitions linger beyond their welcome. While the atmospheric sections prove to be more monolithic than the heavy end, I wish they had been utilized in a way which allowed the tracks to flow more harmoniously. However, harmony doesn’t always seem to be Hastner’s intention; rather, he seems to prefer chaos.
The closing of the album is carried through a cover of Zaklon‘s “Away from Sun into Darkness”, and the closer, “Fenrir’s Shadow”. For fans of the project who may have been loyal from Deviator’s demo days and onwards, the closer actually may sound oddly familiar: “Fenrir’s Shadow” is actually from the first minute and forty seconds of the band’s 2010 single, Necrothrone (Naglfar), which was Hastner’s attempt at bridging his own unique style of Pagan atmosphere with a generic form of brutal death metal. So, in essence, it seems that the intent of this closing track is to flow into that single.
In the end, Voice of Native Blood is a matured and evolved album which utilizes new motifs and styles that harken into the realms of non-melodic death and thrash metal. However, Deviator’s second attempt appears to suffer from “sequel syndrome”, and ends up as an experiment that ultimately feels sterile and lifeless, just missing its mark with choppy compositional qualities and a potential that was never fully realized.
There is a burning spirit within Fehu-Fohat-Fire, lurking in one’s own inner pain and etching itself into bearer’s consciousness. Lingering on one’s tongue, this inner flame can ignite and bask any warrior in a blossoming, new-found strength. Deviator’s third full-length album is the essence of yearning for something more than the realities and visions of modernity, as we collectively continue to push aside our own connection to the natural world around us and replace that instinctual magnetism for something more bleakly artificial. Lord Hastner has taken many different approaches as Deviator, and his third full-length album proves to stand as a pinnacle of his ever-evolving yet already iconic sound. The linear notes themselves state that Fehu-Fohat-Fire has a mission of its own, and it seeks to ignite that inner flame and driving force of the “Eternal Universe”.
Hastner has dabbled for a while now in a sort of hyper-individualist and minimally esoteric, chaotic Gnosticism (even if mostly in imagery), though he obviously has a distinctly Pagan understanding of the world. These two viewpoints are intertwined into the lyrical and aesthetic essences of this album, sometimes competing against each other for thematic space. This, on its own, is proof that Hastner has worn his own unique path straight through the wilderness that is esoteric spirituality and has, in the process, found ways to promote it via a uniquely Nordic fashion. Where previous releases had shown bolder vision into such views, Fehu-Fohat-Fire seems to tell more of a warrior’s tale, finding a way to break the embodiment of that human husk for something eternal, and perhaps even universal beyond the inevitable end that is Ragnarok.
With Fehu-Fohat-Fire, Deviator sheds many of the stereotypical raw black metal motifs for a much broader and well-polished melodic journey. As characterized by many of his past efforts, Hastner’s riffing style has a uniqueness that has surfaced above many other Ukrainian acts, but contains elements of the trademark Swedish melodicism as well. An occasional tremolo-picked atmospheric riff digs itself out of the ashes periodically, but the majority here seem to be traditional sweeping single-note melodies that are found in many melodic death metal efforts. Much of the heavier keyboard utilization techniques are at a bare minimum, resulting in a melodically driven atmosphere that has been derived from dual lead guitars, acoustic instrumentation, and clean passages. Many from Hastner’s old pack have came to join his efforts with additional performances on bass, rhythm sections and arrangements. With Fehu-Fohat-Fire, Hastner’s vocals are less raspy than in previous releases and much more clear and audible, however retaining the uniqueness and duality of layering of harsher and clean chanted vocals which seem to stand testament as a core to Hastner’s sound.
Sadly, despite the enigmatic meaning behind this album, the album in itself doesn’t stand eternally. When all things end — and they inevitably do — the listener may feel a little taxed by the sense of wanting more. Hastner has made sure no filler made its way into the mix, but that has also left the album unbearably short. Just barely gracing the half-hour mark, the album definitely has left more of an impression on me as an MCD than a full-length, especially when on considers that the song “Way of Warriors — Hymn to Immortals” was previously a part of a compilation disc a year prior to this album’s release. This brings up my primary complaint, which is that Hastner likes to reuse songs from previous releases. A little more effort in a fully well-rounded track list could be key to really setting the right emotion and atmosphere that just seems to barely elude the grasp of Deviator.
Fehu-Fohat-Fire is Deviator’s best work to date, but the arbitrary short side of its duration holds it back more than is needed. With one more included original song, this could have been a much grander album, allowing the mission to be more successful and well-driven.
Mighty Black Inner Flame
Authors Note: The original review I had done for this release was a few years back when the album itself first became available. My particular tastes in music have thus since changed. Even despite such, it’s still a solid piece. I edited this review to mirror my greater knowledge of the project and writing style. This is loosely quoted and edited from its original version.
It is always a pleasure to come into contact with talented artists and musician alike. One such soul is Dmitry Kundelski, aka Lord Hastner of Ukraine’s one-man atmospheric black metal project, Deviator. I came into contact with him shortly after I finished recording a demo for my own now defunct project. As I followed the work of Deviator, the sounds showcased the eclectic nature of the man behind the music. Deviator had formed back in 2007 as a small dark ambient project with its debut demo Ahomir, and has gradually evolved into an eclectic amalgamation of thrashing atmospheric brutal death metal, and now, atmospheric/melodic Pagan black metal. After various line-up changes, guess musicians and contributors, Hastner later revived the project as a solo journey with the debut album Mighty Black Inner Flame.
Mighty Black Inner Flame was released just a short year after the demo Bloodthorny Horizons. It is hard to really categorize the ‘sound’ of this album, since there is no predetermined sound to it that flows from song to song. The album recycles some previous, now rerecorded tracks from various demos. Each song is individually unique, ranging from instrumental ambience to melodic blackened death metal. Some fans of black metal who have come to expect bands that stick to one traditional approach that has repeatedly been etched into stone for decades will be rather disappointed. Deviator undoubtedly aims for a blackened diversity and atmosphere that is not usually prevalent in most of these dime-a-dozen solo acts. The listener will collide with a world of rather decent production quality as well as attentive execution of the craft of details. The songs themselves are not overly complex or similar to generic Darkthrone worship, but rather have been rejected for what can best be described as a blackened “Gothenburg” sound. This riffing style has been so integral to the Ukrainian sound that it has little in common with the Norwegian aesthetic. The drums are programmed, but never sound overtly digital; consisting mostly of blast beats, the percussion indeed manages to maintain an organic quality.
The album’s opener, “Forgotten Hope”, raises the curtain as an instrumental track with heavy folkish melodies. Having a rather synthesized feel to it throughout the song, it’s rather hard to determine where the wall of synth ends and the guitar begins. This is a usually a staple of Deviator’s sound, due in no small part to Hastner’s guitar tonality. With a well-written, captivating essence that borders on morose, “Forgotten Hope” has been a lingering track that has seen several different incarnations before its inclusion on Mighty Black Inner Flame. This song is not black metal in any way, but that is what makes it interesting conceptually. Lord Hastner is not afraid to adventure from such a narrow-minded musing. “The Last Day of Mankind” is all about pure speed, utilizing a thrashing black/death savagery. It’s an exceptionally strong song that reminds me of old-school thrash/death outfits like France’s Massacra. However, out of the breadth of the rest of the album, this song specifically feels oddly out-of-place while utilizing Deviator’s trademark atmosphere. I understand the idea behind the variety within this album, though “The Last Day of Mankind” feels misplaced.
Tracks like “Mighty Black Inner Flame” follow the same long-trodden path of many others in the realm of atmospheric black metal, featuring a heavy usage of neoclassical key passages and repetitive riffs. This song is probably the most repetitive song on the album, however this seems to be a reoccurring approach within atmospheric black metal as a whole. The biggest issue with this song, though, is in the lyrics which, when translated into English, come off as juvenile:
Humanity’s suffering from the original sin
Lasts until now, it has no end
On the heavenly altar of sacrifice
Blood will be spilt
Of many careless lambs
Add more firewood!
I don’t follow your rules, I’m thing-in-myself
Physical death will not kill the invincible
Of eternal struggle…
Lyrics aside, the highlight of the album is “Undying Darkness”, which is a cacophonous anomaly. The song is not long, nor is it short, and it has a semi-melodic approach with a few alternative versions to the central motif the riff conveys. Some could categorize this is a chaotic song, and that seems to have been intentionally done. The opening of the song features a spoken-word passage by Moloch’s Sergiy in their native language, and through that, I can’t help but be reminded of Burzum’s “Vanvidd” on the album Fallen. Sergiy’s shrieking wails harmonize with Hastner to create something that is as enthralling as it is haunting. There are a great many different vocal types layered on top of one another here: spoken clear words, eerie whispering, and shrieks peppered with no shortage of growls. The track name describes its contents well: complete darkness, reminiscent of something far beyond the dawn of twilight. For a debut album, there is much to be found on Mighty Black Inner Flame — in terms of solid musicianship and esoteric eccentricities — to garner some interest from individuals who have an interest in themes that are relevant to Chaos Gnosticism and Paganism, and inevitably similar to acts as Arkanum.
Voice of Native Blood:
01) To the Forgotten Path — Triumph of the Will
02) Thy Blood in my Veins
03) Black Sorrow
04) Funeral Future Bells
05) Away from Sun into Darkness (Zaklon Cover)
06) Fenrir’s Shadow
01) Long Road to Salvation
02) Cost of Freedom
03) Way of Warriors — Hymn to Immortals
04) Eternity of Blood
05) My Thoughts they have no Rest (Winter Depression Cover)
06) Burning Bridges become Ashes
Mighty Black Inner Flame:
01) Forgotten Hope
02) The Last Day of Mankind
03) Mighty Black Inner Flame
04) Mesmerized by Blood
05) Undying Darkness
06) Raw Symphony of Sorrow
07) Undying Darkness