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Blackthorn - Witch Cult Ternion

Blackthorn -CD Review
Witch Cult Ternion

Blackthorn - Witch Cult Ternion 


CD info:
MSR Productions
12 tracks
Mostly English lyrics
10/10 plus

We all have our favorite styles of music, our favorite artists. . . and we have different reasons for choosing them. Personally, I prefer a variety of musical styles; I like the classical influence, I like metal and I like various vocal styles. But, for me, no matter how good the music is, the lyrics better be saying something worthwhile. I tend to prefer the darker Gothic styles, especially those that present an intellectual interpretation of the reality we see in our real lives, and in our dreams; the little windows to our souls that reach out to us each night. My psychological training included a heavy dose of Jung (Man and His Symbols) and Perls (Ego, Hunger and Aggression)and other German psychoanalysts who looked closely at dreams and used them for diagnosis and therapeutic treatment. Maybe that’s what attracts me to the Gothic, especially the well written Gothic that takes me to places that provide understanding, at one level or another. And that’s probably why I find Blackthorn to be one of the most interesting acts in our style of music. I’ve covered 3 of their releases now, each progressively better than the last. In fact, their last release, Codex Archaos, would probably have been my release of the year had it come out in time to be included in my choices. Same problem this year, the release was available in some places in late December of 208, but it damn sure wasn’t available to me. I didn’t get it until well into 2016, so it will be on the list this year, at or near the top.

There’s a lot to like about this release, and, given the depth of the musical, and especially the lyrical work, I’ll let band leader Aina do a lot of the explaining. Aina is an interesting lady, one with an academic training to her craft that shows through in so many ways. The core of the band is 5 exceptionally talented Russian musicians, witches in this case, as witchcraft is clearly the vehicle by which their work is presented. The 5: Aina (vocals. . soprano / scream), Elvira (guitar, keyboards, grand piano, and growling vocals), Greta (bass), Less (violin) and Varaska (drums) are the core of the sound, but they’re not all, not by a long shot. But they are exceptional musicians, Varaska may be the best drummer I ever heard. Unfortunately, she has left the band, her replacement has a challenge to face if ever there was one. The band will be on the bill for MFVF this year, something I’ve been screaming about now for some time. I am looking forward to their set as much as any I have ever anticipated. . . ever. I will be in the front row, cameras in hand. Don’t get in my way when these ladies hit the stage.

Probably a good place to start looking at this release would be a general overview. Again, Aina doesn’t do pop stuff, her thinking works at different levels, her themes are grounded in interesting terrain. I asked her to comment on the present release, her reply sheds light on where this interesting lady spends her creative time: “As you may already know our third album is dedicated to one of the oldest world cults – cult of the moon. Since the dawn of time, the moon has always been associated with the obscure, the mystical, the feminine. According to ancient beliefs, there's a strong connection between women and the moon. They believed the mystery and power of the celestial kingdom is embodied in the female form on earth. Three main lunar phases represented three female incarnations and a triple power and gave rise to the concept of the three in one and the one in three. When it comes to our album, all that inspired us to invent the story of three evil witch-sisters or deities. They reign over the world until sufferings, pain and tortures exist and their cult literally feeds on these things. So the whole album is dedicated to that gruesome triad, or ternion.”

I knew a little about the musical development going into this. Much of it is guitarist Elvira Achemida who’s musical skills are on a level with Aina. She also works with her husband Denis Lobotorov on his project Anfel; their first release being on my top 10 last year. Aina talked about the process: “That's right, all the production and orchestrations were on Elvira. Anyway I can tell you a little about the process. We entered the studio with completed songs – in fact we almost never change anything during recording sessions. We had been playing most of the songs for a couple of years before started recording WCT.

As for choral parts, these are by choral ensemble 'Silver Voice' of Moscow Conservatory. You may remember the guys from our previous album CODEX ARCHAOS. Choral parts are, in my opinion, one of the hardest things to record and I have to confess we had some difficulties. We are, however, pleased with the result. Of course I must mention extremely cool guys of Universal Music band - a string quartet that specializes in classical crossover. Our collaboration was such a great experience and it definitely enriched the album sound.” That’s a lot of musicians, a lot of professional talent. And, the final production reflects that level of professionalism. I can think of few in the genre who can approach this level of overall musical diversity: Therion and Whyzdom and maybe a couple others, none do it better.

Finally, I had to ask Aina about lyrics. Now, I am an not unacquainted with Russian poetry. But, my interest is in Russian poetry from the early 20th century; Osip Mandelstam, Anna Akhmatova, Blok, Pasternak, others. Aina would not be expected to be familiar with the same writers. However, I recall one day sending her an English interpretation of an old Mandelstam poem to see if she would recognize it, she did, in about 90 seconds. I was impressed. I wondered how her poetry was developed. Given the witch craft vehicle, was there a deeper meaning? Her response, “Yes, when writing lyrics I prefer allegory, because you know first it's based on mythology, raised by folklore and developed in graphic arts which are probably my biggest interests. Secondly, allegory has always been my way to express myself. As a child I could spend hours writing my own poems and tales or drawing all sorts of pictures and they all had a hidden or symbolic meaning. Since I've been raised in a family where speaking without restraint was forbidden, allegory was the only way to manifest my true desires and point of view which were highly disapproved by my parents.

These days I use allegory in Blackthorn simply because I like it. If some people think it's all about witchcraft and witches - yes, but there's a hidden meaning and a symbolism as well.” I’ll talk about the lyrics as we proceed, they reflect so much of what I love about Russian poetry.

The release begins with the title cut, introduced by a purely classical component, choral and orchestral. . . with a solid violin. The choral continues until the witch begins to scream:

Sisters, / The fateful / Moment is / Truly imminent
We'll open gates of timeless fear / Forked tongues of our fires grow / And lick a sky undone –
Preluding the evenfall when we’ll drag down and lacerate / the great abhorrer… Sun

Bleeding Milliads lets Alvira crank the Jackson, and she does it with style. Blackthorn shows us metal here, crushing metal, with 3 vocal styles from the two vocalists. I’m aware of no one else who can provide this diversity of vocal style, and here we have two women doing it. Again, the lyric addresses dark territory:

Dressed in a sable shroud / She walks with her head bowed
Humble, quiet yet horrifying / Night on the funereal way
Wherever she appears / and wherever she reveals / herself there fade sources of light,
of hope, of life on earth

Obey the Noxdimensions probably does as much as any track to provide meaning to the release. It begins with a pounding metal, the ladies know how to make the heavens howl. But, it evolves into some fine soprano vocal from Aina. This vid demonstrates the track, and the witches providing it. If this doesn’t get you ready for MFVF I don’t know what will. Again, the lyrics take us on a multiple interpretation ride:

Longing to see what no human ever longed to see / Is dementing…
But your eyes are seized by mortal blindness

I hear your cry / Through the noise of mankind
The truth which you thirst for / Can’t be conceived by your mind

When you are all alone at night / Light a black candle, stand on the
threshold and say the rhyme / The sublunary scenes fade / away into the dark
Urging you to choose a strange gateway / to the gloomiest of all impossible worlds

I know you / Will find the way / And appear – / scared and forlorn – / In my realm
That has no bounds / In the world / That has no form

Ecce, Spiritum Humanum!

Stretch out your hand, enter the veil, the quest is over
Arrows of light may bring death / but they will never reach us

Deny instincts / Escape from their confines / Trust nothing but my voice / and follow the burning signs

The Spectral Evidence was the first big video from this release, there were actually two versions, check them both out. With this one we see the ladies in performance form, the other is more romantic and theme oriented. Either works for me, especially when we see Varaska crushing the drums like a Pagan warrior.

Other tracks provide an opportunity for other witches to perform. Graven on a Deathless Sin provides Less an opportunity to demonstrate a violin from the depths of Hell. I suspect Dante could have used an accompaniment like this for his descent into the lowest regions.

Threnody in Flames completes this dark dissertation of evil. Again, we get multiple vocals, we get killer metal. But here, the agony seems complete. The sound is more intense, the pain more registered. With this track, we achieve the darkness in flames:

Eram quod es, / eris quod sum / Consummatum est!

Oh coldly fulgent luminaries / I summon your deadly fire into me
This is my body which I sacrifice for you

There is only one way out: / Come unlock the blazing door
It waits for you behind like / A flame waits for a moth
Let it burn down / Let it all burn / Scattering the gloom with the light
Now I can see / Everything that / Has been out of my sight

There are three more tracks, all instrumental. They are taken from previous tracks but provide a different sound and feel. Each is more than worth the time to appreciate. Blackthorn has multiple capabilities and these three tracks prove that.

Witch Cult Ternion provides entertainment on multiple levels. Musically this is about as good as it gets in this genre. Lyrically, Aina is unsurpassed, both literally and in her use of allegory. You can appreciate this release on so many levels. I don’t go above 10 often, but this one requires it. And, my MFVF reviews will focus on this band’s performance, above all others. See you there.