Vsque Ad Sidera Vsque Ad Inferos: an under-powered minimal black metal debut

Kshatriya

Kshatriya, Vsque Ad Sidera Vsque Ad Inferos, Russia, Barbatos Productions, CD / cassette (2016)

You could be forgiven for thinking that a band called Kshatriya might be some crazy bunch high on psychedelics playing a deranged and chaotic style of bleary acid-guitar mania full of dense reverbed atmospherics and featuring nutty lyrics about arcane rituals promising transcendence of a blacked-out hangover kind. Fret not, these Italian guys are actually a straight-up minimal black metal group playing structured music with definite song structures, riffs and melodies, and even occasional rock grooves. So far the band has released one album “Vsque Ad Sidera Vsque Ad Inferos” whose name translates from Latin into English as “From the Sky to the Ground”, which may be a metaphor for the descent or transmission of the forces of the spirit or the divine into physical existence.

The band’s sound is admittedly thin with each instrument being very clear and contrasting strongly with the crumbly, raspy vocals. Percussion especially is very under-powered and on some tracks the guitars may be more pure in tone and less fuzzy or sharp-edged than they should be. The lyrics are in Italian which I don’t understand so unfortunately I don’t have much idea of what themes drive the music. There might very well be references to cycles of deep time, the impermanence of the world and the action of karma (with every action generating a reaction which in turns leads to another reaction) through time, to judge from song titles like “316 Dvapara”, “Della Manifestazione Cosmica e della Giustizia” and “Ciclo Indoeuropeo”.

Overall the songs aren’t remarkable in themselves: the level of musicianship is good but is let down by the thin sound, and the melodies are nothing out of the ordinary. On the plus side, the Kshatriya guys play with a lot of feeling and enthusiasm for their music and this passion gives the songs spark and focus. What makes the recording really stand out is the use of field recordings of spoken voice monologue and (at the start of the last track) a sample of droning horns that might have come from a Tibetan Buddhist ritual. These sampled recordings give the songs a bit more depth and mystery than they otherwise would have, and if these were integrated into the music rather than being tacked gto the beginnings or ends of songs, would have helped give the album the distinct identity it needs.

The second album would be worth watching out for, to see if Kshatriya can come up with a much more individual style of black metal with the band’s chosen themes providing more inspiration for musical style and focus.

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