Silva Nigra - _Epocha_
(Ravenheart / Ashen Productions, 2007)
by: James Montague (6.5 out of 10)
_Epocha_ is the fourth full-length release from Silva Nigra, one of a plethora of bands from the Czech Republic propagating a superficially conformist yet subtly unique form of black metal. Raw and driven mainly by tremolo riffs and rapid drumming, it technically falls within the boundaries of the Scandinavian second wave, but the atmosphere is not quite the same -- the images I see are more of dank cellars than cold forests.

Behind the almost comically simplistic cover artwork lies a vast and diverse array of lyrical subjects, such as man's changing relationship with the natural world, the origins and destiny of the planet, ancient legends, and more standard metal fare like war, murder and man's self-destructive instinct. The awkward, yet just about comprehensible, translation to English and the randomly philosophical nature of it all reminds me strongly of countrymen Master's Hammer, and the music is not wholly dissimilar despite the absence of theatrics. Another Czech point of reference would be Stiny Plamenu, another band that explores different ends without radically altering the means. At the end of the day it's still unmistakably raw black metal, with fairly upbeat and subtly melodic guitar work and almost uniformly fast tempos.

_Epocha_ could have been made more remarkable with more attentive production, as the tremolo-picked rhythm guitar tends to be buried beneath the snare drum during blast passages, which in turn creates a uniformity of sound that's not in keeping with the diversity of the subject matter. Upon further listening, the band's identity and quality starts to shine through, though not all listeners will persevere.


(article published 4/11/2007)

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