“Mirusio Zmougas Kelione” is the sophomore album by Lithuanian folk / pagan metallers Juodvarnis, which was released in February this year. The song-writing prowess is out in full force here, each composition holding its own individual themes and feel and developing into something truly epic through subtlety and development rather than incessant symphonic layering, taking time to allow things to unfurl before bursting into that spirited sweet spot. These guys are absolute masters of the crescendo, cases in point being the opening “Amizinybe Nelaukia Taves (Eternity Awaits You Not)” spiraling towards one of the finest guitar solos laid down in recent times and “Ieškojimas (The Searching)’s” emphatic final chorus coming across as truly apocalyptic leaving smouldering crumbled remains in its aftermath.
The weight to these songs is staggering, feeling less black metal-informed and instead leaning towards a classic heavy metal and doom-tinged sound. When black metal does become most prominent like on “Pabudimas (The Awakening)” with its searing blast beats or the deliciously off-kilter “Mes Visi Pasmerkti (We Are All Doomed),” it’s all the more venomous for it. The thick production suits this more violent material perfectly, the snare in particular hitting like a tank, and the album also makes clear what has been suspected for a fair while now: Paulius Simanavičius is one of the greatest heavy metal singers at the moment. His range, both technically and emotively, is jaw-dropping, his prophetic eruptions on the mentioned “We Are All Doomed,” are out of this world. The man is such a phenomenal singer that it’s easy to forget his harsh black metal shriek is pretty impeccable too. His gravitas and touching relatability would only be a redeeming feature meanwhile if the band behind him weren’t equally as alluring, the instrumental work as rousing and tangibly human as its booming mouthpiece. Every single emotional button is pushed as it sucks you in and demands response.
“Mirusio Zmougas Kelione” is as close to flawless as they come. Juodvarnis are undoubtedly one of the most special and vital bands within the metal underground, and this album is one of the strongest releases to come out in 2016. Devoid of mystical pretensions and deeply connected with both primal intuitions and the complexities of the real world, “Mirusio Zmougas Kelione” is genuine and as enveloping and engaging as anything else available. Juodvarnis are a band worth making time for.