Ukrainian one-man project Zgard also honors his heritage through atmospheric and so called 'pagan' black metal. 'Totem' is dedicated to the Veles, the old Slavonic god of sorcerers., which of course shrouds this entire album in mystery and evokes visions of ancient rituals and traditions. This is already Zgard's fifth album but for some reason I haven't heard about this project before. Yet, after listening to this piece of work, I will probably check out his other albums too.
The album opens with a dark intro, immediately setting the right atmosphere. The track prepares the listener for what's coming and when 'Land Of Legends' begins, it's absolutely amazing. This, mostly, mid-tempo track is a very strong piece of black metal, one that definitely grabs your attention. At this moment the folk elements aren't clearly present yet, but that too will change soon. By the time the track 'Totem' is almost over, I've become a fan of this act.
Besides the traditional black metal instrumentation and the obvious eerie screams, Zgard uses flutes, plucked guitars and clean, almost mantra-like vocals. It seems like all of that is a lot of work for one person, certainly if that artist wants to convince the listener. With this kind of music that's not an easy task. There are about ten instruments to be played, choirs to be compiled and you have to get the atmosphere right.
Yet, Zgard succeeded in coming up with something inspiring. 'Totem' is a dark but fascinating album, brilliantly envisioning the foggy atmosphere of the ancient Carpathians and their inhabitants. With this, Zgard clearly establishes himself as a firm and unique entity in the world of atmospheric pagan metal acts. Check it out, this genre rarely gets as good as on this masterpiece.