Jassa’s Lights In The Howling Wilderness is one of the most awesome and unusual black metal albums you’ll hear in 2016. On the one hand, it’s about 60 percent pure driving riffage bolstered by absolutely booming, cavernous vocals. Take, for example, the opening swing of “Crescent Moon Over Dark Water” — its all-pistons-firing, side-to-side groove is the kind of stuff fans of metal live for.
But on the other hand, alongside the de rigueur (and killer) guitars and drums that anchor the album, the most prominent instrument on Lights In The Howling Wilderness is a mouth harp that twangs and twongs away on every single song. It’s a sound that, in a different context, would make most of us think of banjos, washboards, and riverboats, but in the hands of Jassa it’s like a portal to another dimension. Throat singing, chanting, and the occasional spastic guitar and bass outburst likewise evoke strange mysticism, darkness, and, ultimately, feelings of unease. It’s a wholly unique and compelling exploration of what Jassa’s Vladimir, one-half of the band, calls “‘dark paganism’ — the cults of Gods and Chthonic forces [of which] little is known about, even though we have unequivocal evidence of their existence in both archeology and ethnography.” He tells me the instrumentation reflects Slavic shamanistic tradition.
Some may recognize Jassa’s Vladimir as the man behind Sivyj Yar, one of Russia’s best atmospheric black metal bands that often lyrically focuses on the plight of agrarian peasants, vividly bringing to life their toil and sorrow with heart-achingly beautiful music. Though Jassa mines a different history, it is no less effective in creating a vision in the mind’s eye — albeit one that is full of shadows and blurred around the edges. Listen.
Cop Lights In The Howling Wilderness via Fallen Empire Records.