Reviewed by Sebastian Kluth
Kypck is a Finnish doom metal quintet with a faible for Russian language and history. Finnish melancholy meets Russian soul on the three studio records the band has delivered so far. The group is named after a city where the world’s deadliest armored battle took place in 1943, which caused around a quarter of a million casualties during World War II. Kursk is also the name of a nuclear submarine that sank in the Barents Sea in 2000, causing 118 casualties. The band’s music and lyrics are as sinister as these two events and deal with loss, pain and war.
On an interesting side note, the band features two members of the legendary defunct gothic metal band Sentenced, while singer Erkki Seppänen should be known to European power metal fans as current singer of the band Dreamtale. His outstanding vocals are expressive, low, and throaty, and he performs the Russian lyrics quite well (he is an experienced instructor at a language school).
While the vocals are half the charm of the band, the haunting guitar melodies are the other half, and have a really unique touch. The band also includes dark, and doomy riffs supported by low bass guitar and slow- to mid-tempo driven destructive drumming. What stands out most are the melancholic, nostalgic, and even occasionally psychedelic melodies that feel like emotional outbursts for hope in all the drowning darkness.
This band is all about bleak atmosphere, and even the instruments support this tendency. Sami Lopakka’s guitar looks like an AK-47, while Ylä-Rautio’s bass has only one string and looks like an old military weapon. The band even has its own Lada painted in a nostalgic military green color with the band logo on it. The booklets present the band members trimmed on old and bleak pictures. The most recent booklet features pictures from the ghost town of Pripyat in Ukraine (which was abandoned a few days after the Chernobyl disaster in 1986). This historical event has always fascinated me, and Kursk’s new record feels like a trip through the ill-fated town near the border with Belarus.
From the first seconds of “Prorok”, the band builds up a depressing, haunting, and psychedelic atmosphere with simple but effective melodies, a surprisingly vivid rhythm section, and thunderous, low, and intentionally repetitive riffs that are hard to digest. The narrating vocals are accusatory and emotional, and are sometimes supported by uneasy whispers in the background. This first song represents the entire record quite well. The track is uneasy, raw, and depressing, and hard to digest at first. However, the characteristic guitar melodies and the melodic chorus are incredibly hypnotizing and grow with each spin.
The title song “Imya Na Stene”, is one of the most melodic and memorable tracks here. The song is a bit more vivid, shorter, and to the point than the rest. The chorus crowns this eerie track, before moving into the more extreme “Voskresenie”, which fathoms the other extreme and evokes strong negative emotions. It’s clearly one of the most disturbing tracks on the entire record. The song is dominated by noisy bass guitar riffs, extremely low and distorted guitar riffs, a dissonant guitar solo, mean guttural vocals, and throaty laughter.
It’s quite a challenge to sing about the fate of children in a concentration camp. “Deti Birkenau” overcomes the potential risks of either writing a hypocritical, moralistic tune or a too-condescending, explicit, and superficial one. The song is intense in meaning and music, as melodies and lyrics filled with calm glimmers of hope meet an epic, yet reserved atmosphere of ongoing sadness and suffering. The track has a melodic clean vocal approach, supported by slow melancholy guitar melodies, distorted background riffs, and that heavy slow rhythmic section. The song also has a few up-tempo parts with hopeful energy and heavenly melodies that soon turn into a repetitive, fatalistic, and yet consoling numbness. The philosophical song somehow fits the topic perfectly in my mind. As somebody who has visited a concentration camp, this masterpiece brings back the atmosphere of despair, bleak fear, and destructive hate I felt when I visited this memorial to one of the grisliest crimes humans have committed against each other.
You can believe me when I say that the rest of this record is just as atmospheric as the first four songs, though the intensity decreases a little towards the end. I’m confident that this unique quintet can yet increase its musical intensity and song writing quality to surpass this excellent highlight and create an indisputable genre milestone some day. You definitely need to spend some time and be in a receptive mood to fully digest this accusing, angry, bleak, consoling, dark, depressing, disturbing, grisly, hopeful, hypnotizing, horrifying, menacing, mysterious, nihilistic, psychedelic, and profoundly sad record, but it’s well worth digging in. If you are looking for an emotional, melodic, and intellectually challenging doom metal release, you definitely can’t find anything better than this output in the year 2014.
4.25 // 5