Piarevaracien already delivered one of the musical highlights of 2016 with their album Spadčyna, which brought together traditional and modern interpretations of folk. Scarcely three months later, the Belarusians are already back, this time with a metal full-length titled U pošukach pačatku tych šlachoŭ. This new release is, above all, a testament to the band’s versatility. With Spadčyna already standing as one of the year’s finest folk albums thus far, U pošukach pačatku tych šlachoŭ succeeds on its own terms, with its thirty-six-minute metal offering containing few, if any, boring or otherwise lackluster riffs. As a result, Piarevaracien’s new album is their second career highlight within a three-month period.
Piarevaracien’s two 2016 records are vastly different on the surface, with the respective timbre, instrumentation, and style of each album impossible to recognise as originating from the same collective. On a deeper level, however, there is continuity between the two releases. One shared trait is the consistent quality of both albums, which is remarkable in itself given how radically different they are musically. Yet, even more importantly, both Spadčyna and U pošukach pačatku tych šlachoŭ coil their respective themes into a cohesive narrative, which in turn helps each work shine as an artistic whole that rises far above the sum of its parts.
Where Spadčyna dealt primarily with the change of seasons narrated against a backdrop of more universal motifs, U pošukach pačatku tych šlachoŭ‘s thematic canvas is decorated only with war. The album’s central theme is ‘the eternal soldier’, who has risen up throughout history, destined to sacrifice his own life for his people and soil. The album’s seven tracks—titled simply ‘Razdziel’ I through VII—cover different periods of Belarus’s blood-soaked past.
‘Razdziel II’ reminisces about the Battle of Grunwald, which took place in 1410 and saw Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (which included the territory of present-day Belarus) decisively defeat the Knights of the Teutonic Order, halting their expansion Eastwards. This confrontation between East and West, which has been labelled a medieval rehearsal of the Battle of Stalingrad, is only one example of Belarus’s long-lasting affair with armed struggle; the album continues to tell of the Belarusian resistance against the Soviet Union, both in the wake of the Russian Revolution and during (and even after) World War II. Threading through these historic accounts is the eternal soldier, whose presence ties said events together.
Metal enthusiasts may be tempted to dismiss warfare as a worn-out lyrical theme, but Piarevaracien justifies its choice by treating the topic with a profound understanding of the concept. Emerging from a country whose borders were carved by centuries of struggle, death, and resurgence, the band recognises the perpetuity of war. Such is confirmed by the following Nietzsche quote, which has been included in the album booklet: “Ye shall love peace as a means to new wars and the short peace more than the long.” This reflects the pre-modern interpretation of peace as an anomalous interruption in between wars.
Piarevaracien brings to the table compositions which perfectly reflect the belligerent topic material of the album. Even though the group made a name for itself in black metal, the genre is only sporadically present in this new album’s sound. While the work defies strict stylistic classification, it is closest to the folk metal label. However, rather than relying on annoyingly exuberant recorders and other fairy instruments, Piarevaracien’s folklore here manifests itself through vibrant riffing that leaps enthusiastically over the drum and bass work—a method that is comparable to Kawir‘s Isotheos album. This approach results in melodies that are as colourful as they are varied, with riffs never outstaying their welcome before the band dives into the next movement.
Piarevaracien’s compositional prowess should not go unmentioned. U pošukach pačatku tych šlachoŭ incorporates a variety of influences ranging from black metal-style tremolo picking to melodeath rhythm patterns, and even vocals that dance on the stylistic border of hardcore. In the hands of less capable musicians, such a list of ingredients could easily have led to an obnoxious concoction, but Piarevaracien takes these divisive elements and weaves them into a well-rounded, tasteful plexus. Each composition offers smooth transitions between melodies and movements. Consequently, the album’s quality shines through both in its individual songs and on the album as a whole. It is largely this combination of individual and collective quality that makes U pošukach pačatku tych šlachoŭ such a joy to listen to. This impression is elevated further by the excellent production, which gives each of the instruments a place to shine. All of this makes the record’s slight blemishes—largely limited to occasionally off-key clean vocals—all the easier to forgive.
Due to the frightening consistency with which Piarevaracien establishes its mastery of tasteful folk metal, U pošukach pačatku tych šlachoŭ is one of 2016’s premier releases in the metal genre as a whole. With songs that are composed as well as they are played, this is an album with many highlights and virtually no moments of true weakness. Thematically, Piarevaracien’s handling of the topic of war goes way beyond the primal ‘blood ‘n’ gore’ fixation of more simple-minded metal formations. Instead of delivering hollow, misanthropic panegyrics to death, U pošukach pačatku tych šlachoŭ highlights the eternal return of a timeless warrior soul. By showing how young men who die in the struggle for a higher goal are forever hailed by their offspring, one can wonder if the looming end of Europe’s longstanding peace is truly something to be feared, or to be welcomed as an overdue liberation from the chains of meaninglessness.
 У пошуках пачатку тух шляхоў roughly translates as ‘Searching for the Beginning of Those Ways’.
01) Razdziel I
02) Razdziel II
03) Razdziel III
04) Razdziel IV
05) Razdziel V
06) Razdziel VI
07) Razdziel VII