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Vrag - Harcom

by Hutch at 30 December 2021, 10:02 PM

Hungarian multi-instrumentalist Vrag, or Roland Neubaeur, to give him his proper name, has been plying his atmospheric black metal for over a decade using this vehicle to provide two full length releases, 2014’s “Mourningwood” and the sophomore record “Remete” in 2017. His latest release, “Harcom”, translates to “My Struggle”, and it’s unsurprising to find that the man who is also part of FROZEN WREATH and WITCHER, as well as Filosofem Records, has once more provided songs that talk of the nearness of death, of nihilistic intent and the pain of living.

Opening the album with the title track, which at 8:10 is the shortest of the five songs on the album, you are instantly drawn to the use of repetitive riffs which are utilised throughout the song. The programmed drumming provides symmetry and Vrag uses the riff to build dramatically. Linking the parts in the song, this is steeped in the 1990s black metal era, with sonic soundscapes that build slowly and dramatically. “Harcom” is a mood inducing slow burn, with the tempo simmering before exploding into life at the two-minute mark; cue the entry of the raw, gruff vocals which are somewhat one-dimensional but in keeping with the music.

The style is unsurprisingly similar throughout, with dark moods conjured through creative passages that rely on intensity rather than variety. “Belul Halott” or “Dead Inside” follows the opening track in terms of composition, dominated by a frantic riff that cascades. The drumming is simplistic, but the programming works well enough to carry the song forward with ease. The layered samples work well, bringing a burning ferocity that also carries the bleakness of the song to the fore.

Whilst one could become rather tired of the formula that Vrag employs, it doesn’t feel that repetitive despite the methods used. Third song “Az en Keresztem” brings more deep swells of emotional riffing, the slower pace supported by the thundering blast beats. It’s the change of tempo, albeit briefly with whispered lyrics that adds an additional element to this track, projecting a demonic darkness which permeates every pore.

“Ott Vagy a Szelben”, which roughly translates to “There, or in the Wind” changes tempo slightly and feels like three songs threaded together rather than one fluid piece. Yes, the tremolo riff wall remains, shimmering like an invisible force field, but there’s a slower, controlled power to it which doesn’t appear on the first three tracks. At over ten minutes long it is the weightiest piece on the release, but also possibly the most impressive.

Rounding things off is the majestic feel of “Bucsuzom a nemasagtol” which has a captivating hook and explosive ferocity missing from some of the other tracks. It’s the fieriest song in parts, whilst in other segments the ethereal echoes provide a more deliciously aggressive sound. It’s all a bit 1990s darkness.

“Harcom” is not an easy listen. The walls of riffage will be once more misunderstood by many but I doubt that Vrag is bothered by that. This is art at its most extreme. And its certainly something to sink all teeth into – the rewards are plenty.

Song writing: 7
Musicianship: 8
Memorability: 7
Production: 7

3 Star Rating

1. Harcom
2. Belul Halott
3. Az en Keresztem
4. Ott Vagy a Szelben
5. Bucsuzom a nemasagtol
Vrag: All instruments, Vocals
Record Label: Filosofem Records


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