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YGG – The Last Scald Award winner

The Last Scald
by Santiago Puyol at 17 March 2020, 10:33 PM

"The Last Scald" is the sophomore record by Ukrainian Black Metal band, YGG, following their 2011 self-titled debut. This outstanding effort goes on a four-track, 55-minute musical journey through darkness and weirdness. YGG’s sound moves between traditional Black Metal, evoking BURZUM or DRUDKH, while taking a page or two from Post-Rock, Prog Metal and Avant-Garde stuff, moving closer to the weirder side of GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR or the saner aspects of MAUDLIN OF THE WELL.

Opener "Мертвые Топи" is the longest track here, well over sixteen minutes and a half. It has an Avant-Gardish intro with a folksy build-up, filled of atmospheric textures, repetitive percussion and bizarre sounds. It transitions abruptly into a blast beat assault atop hypnotic synth melodies. The track has quite a groovy rhythm. Vocals are front and centre in the mix, something not as usual in this genre and it works perfectly. In a flash, everything drops to pure ambience before a lone guitar enters. Sinister synths and muffled spoken word on the background welcome more odd sounds. The almost free-flowing structure is quite reminiscent of "F#A#∞" by the aforementioned GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR.

"Последний Cкальд" comes next with a melodic and nostalgic main riff. Groovy and psychedelic, featuring some chilling use of organs and synths. Its really warm bassline catches your ear, sounding almost like a fretless bass. Vocals are so anguished and intense, filled with anger and despair. You do not need to understand the lyrics as the feeling and mood the band is going for become transparent. The second half of the track has some nasty bass jamming, with proggy time signature changes. The track certainly is a highlight for Vrolok.

"В надежде о Вечном" goes straight for the jugular with hard-hitting heaviness. Frantic drumming and sick riffing leave little time to breathe. Around the four-minute mark, the song takes a nasty turn into a bass-driven breakdown. Some spidery guitar work and textured layering of instruments put on a psychedelic flair, while more Avant-Garde elements come into play, transitioning into an electronic, percussion-driven section, filled with little noises emulating raindrops. Things collide together for a final heavy run.

Closer "Віса пробудження" starts rather ominous with its menacing synths, weird sounds and delicate acoustic playing. Things run smoothly into a mid-tempo rocker, with just a dash of intermittent blast beats. The track builds to an explosive crescendo, before fading out into a folky section that seems to reprise some motifs from earlier on the album.

From the very first track on "The Last Scald" it becomes quite evident that YGG know their way around lengthy compositions. No track feels overlong or overcrowded. Themes and motifs are introduced and dropped at the right times, as jigsaw pieces falling into their right place. Subtlety is key on building their song structures, as much as taking some bold, oddball choices and left-turns.

The overall mix is a little wet, but clear enough so instruments can be appreciated. It fits the music and feels natural, without hurting the enjoyment of the music with the sole purpose of sounding lo-fi, as sometimes happens with Black Metal bands.

Bass pays a huge role in this record, being the main element even when it is not in the forefront. It grounds every shift on structure and adds a sense of movement to the songs, providing both groove and melody.

An outstanding record that demands attentive listening but keeps on rewarding.

Songwriting: 9
Musicianship: 8
Memorability: 8
Production: 9

4 Star Rating

1. Мертвые Топи
2. Последний Cкальд
3. В надежде о Вечном
4. Віса пробудження
Odalv – Drums, hand drum
Helg – Guitar, acoustic guitar, keyboards, hand drum, vocals
Vrolok – Bass, vargan, vocals, shakuhachi
Andrey – Hang in "Віса пробудження" (Guest)
Record Label: Ashen Dominion


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