Review by Felix on October 18, 2023.
I like bands with a strange, dotty image. Maybe it is because of an unconscious mental barrier that the Iron Curtain once implemented in my brain, but the quota of these formations seems to be higher in Eastern Europe. Malokarpatan have already proved their troll-like potential (and do not understand the word troll in a negative way here). I admit that their third album left me slightly confused and I did not find the time to decode its songs with their opulent average length of almost ten minutes. However, this review is about Vertumnus Caesar whose lyrics deal with Emperor Rudolf II. He lived from 1552 – 1612 and maybe he was just an eccentric weirdo, but non-conform creatures are always more interesting than ordinary people and so he delivers a very good blue print for a band like Malokarpatan. And the fact that he was the ruler of the Holy Roman Empire for a period of 36 years does not make him less interesting.
Naturally, instrumentals do not contribute a lot to a lyrical concept and here we have two of them. The intro does not only kick off the album. Its keyboards and piano tones explain those who get in touch with Malokarpatan for the first time that the Slovakian brood does not play a brutal, but an autonomous form of black metal. Instrumental no. 2, 'Panstvo Salamandrov Jest V Kavernách Zeme', starts with experimental, mind-opening segments. As the electric guitars take the lead, the song gains heaviness, but the instinct for intriguing melodies remains in the center of this piece. Keyboards and guitar go hand in hand and create a pretty unique, hardly tangible mood. “Let your thoughts fly” seems to be the message of this quite individual track.
Malokarpatan stay loyal to themselves and from this follows that Vertumnus Caesar is another complex full-length. Yet it is also true that one can find access to the album in an appropriate time. Some straight parts are integrated and a handful of extremely expressive riffs deliver points of orientation. From time to time, the guys even present very generic power-riffing of the eighties, for example at the beginning of the fourth track. But the same song holds pretty unusual sounds at the end that paint a rather progressive sound picture. Doubtlessly, the Slovaks love to surprise the listener – a sudden twist here, a more or less experimental ingredient there. But this way of proceeding does not result in abstruse, labyrinthine songs. The band has found a way to channel its big number of creative ideas in an effective way. 'Koár Postupuje Temnomodrými Dálavami Na Juhozápad', maybe the most metallic song with high velocity parts, galloping guitars and straight lines, tells us right from the beginning that Malokarpatan want to achieve the best possible results. Probably needless to say that even this nearly linear track has a short narrative, sacral intermezzo.
Whenever I am listening black metal from a Slovakian or Czech band, Master’s Hammer comes to my mind immediately. Malokarpatan’s music brings some of the pioneer’s aesthetics back to life. This is because of both the malicious, raw voice and the spirit of occultism which hovers ghostly through the compositions. Okay, I need to say it again: 'The Jilemnice Occultist' remains unrivaled in terms of dark Eastern spirituality, but the here reviewed album is not far away from this classic due to its spooky and subliminally vicious appearance. Additionally, every now and then it gets obvious that two members of Krolok are involved in Malokarpatan. Especially the atmosphere of 'Maharal A Golem' reveals this. By the way, this song is another highlight, a fantastic mixture of a speedy start, an unexpected keyboards-dominated mid-part and an ending with droning Celtic Frost / Darkthrone guitars. But I mentioned Master’s Hammer and I hope that Franta, Necrocock and Silenthell enjoy to listen to their musical legacy.
Either way, the best of this excellently produced album is yet to come. The grand finale 'I Hle, Tak Zachádza Imperiálna Hviezda' invites the listener to a ten minutes journey through the sound cosmos of Malokarpatan. It bundles the strengths of the quartet in a brilliant way and offers all aspects of the band’s art for the final time. An almost thoughtful intro, archaic riffing, naturally an unconventional song pattern yet still a smooth flow, mumbling vocals, dreamy breaks and an outer space outro – what more do you want? Vertumnus Caesar is Malokarpatan’s masterpiece so far, even though I do not understand a single word of the lyrics. Nevertheless, I enjoy that they do not sing about bullshit but a historically relevant person – and they are on the best way to become such persons, too, at least in terms of eccentric black heavy speed metal.
Rating: 8.6 out of 10845
Review by Vladimir on October 13, 2023.
Somewhere around autumn last year, when my friend and I were fanboying and discussing extreme metal bands from Eastern bloc countries such as Tormentor, Root, Master’s Hammer, Kat etc., he introduced me to a Slovakian heavy/black metal band Malokarpatan. The band is very particular for its lyrical themes of Slovak folklore and witchcraft, while their dark heavy metal music is a wonderful blend of oldschool heavy metal and first wave black metal, a cross mix between Mercyful Fate/King Diamond, Master’s Hammer and Motorhead. Ever since I gazed into their world with their first album Stridžie Dni, I was absolutely astonished with the dark medieval vibe of that album, whereas their second album Nordkarpatenland wonderfully expanded their style, but their third album Krupinské ohne was where the band really dwelled into even darker territories and it is in my opinion perhaps the best entry in their discography. When I read that their upcoming fourth album Vertumnus Caesar was scheduled to be released on October 27th this year via Invictus Productions, I got hyped over the fricking roof, but once I read that the album was mixed by Olof Wikstrand of Enforcer, that is where I truly lost my mind. Was it worth the wait? Let’s find out…
As the drums roll on the opening track 'Na Okraji Priepaste Otevíra Sa Hviezdny Zámek', we start off with beautiful folkish and psychedelic instrumental consisted of acoustic guitars, groovy bass and drums, which slowly but steadily sets the mood for the entire album. The second track 'Kočár Postupuje Temnomodrými Dálavami Na Juhozápad' is where the signature style of Malokarpatan begins to shine, filled with melodic heavy metal guitar work which has some incredibly catchy riffs and mesmerizing melodies, along with a nice addition of synthesizers, all while HV’s harsh vocals stalk like a strigoi in the dark. The song even ends on a very high note with a powerful folkish section that is followed by a heavy metal guitar solo. Malokarpatan is well known for containing traces of Master’s Hammer in their music, which you can hear on tracks 'Vertumnus Caesar' and 'Maharal A Golem', with the return of wonderful medieval folkish tunes. There are even some elements of 70’s psychidelic/progressive rock with some film soundtrack style to it, which reminded me a lot of the Italian band Goblin, known for composing the music for Italian horror movies such as Suspiria, Tenebrae and Phenomena. All of this is present on the instrumental fifth track 'Panstvo Salamandrov Jest V Kavernách Zeme', which contains a heavy and progressive instrumental work consisted of synthesizers, clean guitars, groovy walking bass line and groovy drums. This is a very amazing and interesting inclusion on the album, which to some might seem like a prolonged interlude but I beg to differ, this is by far unlike anything else I heard in any black metal album. The great thing about this album is that it doesn’t get weaker after the second half, especially towards the end with the final track 'I Hle, Tak Zachádza Imperiálna Hviezda' which still managed to do a great job with its length of 10 minutes and 11 seconds. This album has tons of oldschool heavy metal moments which shine all throughout, the best examples being tracks 'Vovnútri Chlácholivého útočišta Kunstkamru' and 'Mnohoraké útrapy Milostpána Kelleyho', where the riffs and guitar solos contain strong New Wave of British Heavy Metal influences. These 80’s heavy metal influences were wonderfully combined with the first wave black metal elements of bands like Master’s Hammer and Root, which is indeed the signature sound of Malokarpatan that they wonderfully crafted. On top of that, even the stylish album cover art with alchemist apparatus reminds me of something that could have very easily been used for a Master’s Hammer album. Speaking of the overall presentation of this album, the band expands their mythology with an interesting concept revolving around the mysterious life of Emperor Rudolf II, infamous for his involvement in the esoteric arts. The sound production for this Vertumnus Caesar is fantastic, providing perfect balance between modern and 80’s heavy metal production. I think that Olof Wikstrand obviously understood the task of mixing this album and he certainly did not fail the assignment he took with great responsibility.
Malokarpatan has always been one of the most unique bands in modern day black metal and black metal in general, and it’s no surprise that Vertumnus Caesar turned out to be a brilliant delivery from one track to another. I think that the album is up there with Krupinské Ohne in terms of excellent musicality and superb songwriting, which in the end comes as no surprise to someone like me who was fully invested in their music ever since I heard them for the first time. This band obviously doesn’t want to limit themselves to traditional genre norms and they continue expanding their sound and themes with each new release they come out with, and I consider Vertumnus Caesar to be a great example of someone who is devoted to their work and has tremendous attention to detail.
Rating: 9.5 out of 10845