Monday, August 21, 2023

Full Length Review: Мещера [Meschera] "Жатва" [Zhatva] (Independent) by Dave Wolff

Band: Мещера [Meschera]
Location: Ryazan
Country: Russia
Genre: Blackened folk metal
Full length: Жатва [Zhatva]
Format: Digital album
Label: Independent
Release date: June 8, 2023
“Жатва”, Мещера's debut full-length, captures the sacred feeling so often associated with Russian folk and pagan metal, particularly in vocal arrangements as significant to the musicianship as the musical arrangements themselves. A thirteenth century Finno-Ugric tribe living in the Meschera Lowlands, the Volga and part of what would become Moscow was the inspiration for the band's name. The historical context makes their journey into a forgotten past all the more poignant since you’re being allowed into something entirely personal to the band.
That “Жатва” is written in Russian gives it an additional layer of authenticity. To fully appreciate it I had to translate the lyrics online. Doing so greatly enhanced the listening experience. From the lyrics to the front cover artwork, “Жатва” conveys a sense of a living cinematic production guiding your imagination toward a distant past. Similarly to many bands that are capable of bringing their visions to life through their music, Мещера offers up their visions through captivating, immersive stories making the listener feel as if they’re witnessing the events first-hand.
The album's opening track, “Чёрный Туман” (Black Mist), plunges the listener headfirst into the band's resourcefulness. Listening to this song makes you feel the cold closing in around you, visualize the black hole opening in the night sky and the fog rising from behind a seemingly serene river, touch ashes of forgotten times, and sense an unseen spirit slaughtering enemies in battles long before recorded history. Every song conveys a sweeping sense of ancient civilizations being wiped out and a desire for vengeance, and Мещера persuades you to bear witness to all you witness.
By incorporating a myriad of contrasting themes into the song structure and dual vocal passages, these images are presented with a horrifying beauty that’s old, frigid, majestic, and terrible all at once. The earth is depicted as long dead, long dead but with the dignity of its scorned civilization still intact after all these centuries. There’s a feeling of a civilization that ended before its time, but whose inherent beauty was somehow preserved. This nobility and thirst for revenge merges closer in each passionate hymn to darkness and reserved tribute to nature, finally becoming one.
The pagan spirit personified by Alexandra Sidorova and Dmitry Kokarev's vocals, and the wrath the singers later personify, are fitting additions to the compositions. Мещера draw upon many metal subgenres, incorporating them to tell the story as effectively as the lyrics do. In illustrating the story, the clean vocals are particularly effective, soaring high above the ground and plunging deep into the abyss with equal conviction. Finally the drums push the songs to greater heights, propelling the emotion-driven vocals and contrasting musical influences with breadth as well as depth.
An instrumental version of “Жатва” can be streamed at Bandcamp along with different versions of their “Skazki Chyornyh Lesov” EP and a streaming of their debut single “З​и​м​н​и​м Х​л​а​д​о​м” (Winter Cold). I’d recommend any and all of these if you’re interested in giving them a chance. -Dave Wolff

Alexandra Sidorova: Vocals (clean, extreme), lyrics
Dmitry Kokarev: Composer/multi-instrumentalist, clean vocals, growling, lyrics, recording
Maxim Ayupov: Bass guitar, mixing and mastering
Svyatoslav Krekov: Drums, cover concept art (3D), layout design
Vitaly Karatykhin: Management, organizational help 
Armaada Art: Cover artwork

Track list:
1. Чёрный Туман
2. Жатва
3. Вечность Белых Январей
4. Зимним Хладом
5. Взор Безликих
6. Страж Сосновых Чащоб
7. Мещера
8. Сказки Чёрных Лесов
9. В Неведомых Топях
10. Тьмою Седых Ночей

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