Garabontzia — the latest album from the Bulgarian black metal project Hænesy — convulses with all-consuming ache.
The album feels monumentally torrential. For much of its runtime, those behind this work stick to raging black metal, with blisteringly forceful guitars and rattling drums leading the musical tide. (No bass guitar work is mentioned in the album’s credits; only guitars, keys, lyrics/vocals, drums, and effects make an appearance for the instrumentals.) Garabontzia consistently feels quite weighty — it’s not particularly lo-fi (although it’s definitely not sanitized), and the emotive instrumentals land with resounding force.
The emotional states encapsulated by the immersive sonic downpour feel quite central. As Hænesy unfurl the scorching devastation of the instrumentals — and seriously, the force feels difficult to overstate — jarringly poignant melodies snake through the mix that seem to capture feelings of incinerating inward torment. These guitar melodies that roll out with the main onslaught feel inescapably striking, but the album doesn’t feature soaring melodic black metal vibes. Instead, Garabontzia centers on musically expressed feelings of suffocating grime.
To take a cue from the album art, which depicts a hellishly red-tinted scene of figures fighting against rolling ocean waves while a lightning storm bears down, this latest Hænesy effort feels like sinking through shadowy and disorienting waters.
This struggle never feels particularly fanciful or whimsically detached, as if watching scenes from afar. Thanks in part to the grime in the sound and the album’s thick rhythmic force, the struggle feels intense yet personal. There’s not a particularly broad horizon within the album’s world — although the music is pointedly dynamic, there are no extended periods of relief, there are no sudden post-rock crescendos, and there’s no conclusive catharsis. Instead, the music captures a feeling of trapezing on the line between agony and disorientation.
There’s a surety and a stability in the Hænesy sound, which helps establish contemplative vibes. Although the music is fiery, it’s also quite consistently forward-moving, although this element adds to the immersion rather than providing any sort of underlying brightness.
Hænesy establish Garabontzia‘s direction from the get-go. When the musical fire lets up somewhat on “Sinking Deep for a Hidden God,” the album’s second track, there’s a sense of the record’s ground suddenly collapsing, adding a sort of emotional whiplash to the impact of the melodies that continue throughout the song. On “Path to the Weeping Hollow,” which comes up next, the music’s ache feels even more prominent thanks to some initially comparatively slower tempos, but the musical firestorm is never far on Garabontzia.
By “The Archives,” which is the album’s penultimate track, a heavy sense of raw desperation is coursing through the music. The poignant melodies that lay alongside the main onslaught feel pointedly grim, like stepping into a personal sense of hell. Hænesy’s interweaving of personal ache with existentially threatening fury feels truly remarkable.
Garabontzia is available via Purity Through Fire records.