If you go to Cân Bardd‘s Bandcamp page, you might notice two things. The first would probably be that the band released their debut album only last year, yet here we are reviewing their sophomore effort in 2019. The second might, and should, be the incredibly endearing and self-secure description that they added to this sophomore release: “We put our heart and all the means we had at our disposal to create an album that suited our vision of the atmospheric black metal and we succeeded”. Before hearing this album, that last part my grate a little; testifying as to your own success is quite a faux pas, especially when art as concerned. However, giving The Last Rain a proper listen should cure you of your irritation because, judging by all means apparent to us, Bardd have indeed succeeded. Their vision for atmospheric black metal is an incredibly powerful one and this album exudes power in droves, a fascinating and intricate exploration of what black metal is capable of.
At the core of this success lies this very dedication to bringing Bardd’s vision forward; it is readily apparent from the very first moments of the album that a massive degree of passion went into this release. “Between Hope and Reality”, the opening track of the album, starts with some stellar vocals, setting a beautiful stage for what’s to come. Their crystal-clear tone is pleasing enough, and does much to convey the awe of nature that is required for nearly any atmospheric black metal release, but it’s how the harsh vocals and the rest of the instruments come in that initially sells you on the album. They are preceded by this intake of breath, pregnant with passion and the effort that is to come on the considerably packed run-time of the album. That moment, as the breath draws and then releases just as the rest of the instruments explode into action, stays with you throughout the album, as the emotional ante is constantly raised and re-iterated upon.
To perform this kind of mounting intensity on The Last Rain, Cân Bardd resort to two main musical modes and their joining. The first is incredibly well produced and massive black metal composition. Tremolo riffs, furious blast-beats, harsh vocals and the such all blend together to create melodically gripping sections, channeling that feeling of being in the presence of greatness that is so classically atmospheric black metal. But they’re also often more intricate than what you’d expect from the genre, at times even skirting close to the progressive moniker in how much is going on at the same time and in the transitions. The other musical mode, which complements the first one beautifully, is represented in lovingly expanded upon folk segments. Instead of just throw-away transitions, movements like the opening of “Celestial Horizon” are fully-fleshed and composed folk pieces. These are starker and more simple, presenting a great contrast to the richness and grandeur of the heavier passages.
“Celestial Horizon” is also a great example of what Bardd can accomplish when these two modes meet; while the track starts off with the folk passages as its intro, they persist well into its run-time, playing alongside the main riff. What’s more, the end of the track contains one of the stronger harsh vocal passages on the album, as the instruments fall away for a while but the raspy screams remain. This passage, singular in its dedication to the vocals is set in direct contrast to the intro, where the folk instruments were the ones left without accompaniment. This time, the vocals are laid over the folk arrangements. It’s this tension created between one of the more placid and one of the more violent passages on the album, on the same track, finally let loose in a moving outro that creates the energy which makes The Last Rain so powerful.
There are so many more musical moments worthy of their own attention on this album but it would honestly take us many more words to cover all of then. Instead, we’ll encourage you to listen to this album if you are fans of atmospheric or folk black metal to any degree. It’s one of the more accomplished, intricate, and ambitious explorations of the genre and its capabilities that we’ve heard in a long time and sure to feature in at least this writer’s end of year lists. It’s frankly the most fun I’ve had with the genre in a long time, absent all its pompous trappings and beleaguering interludes, replaced with a self-assured approach to the contrasts which make it so damn beautiful and appealing.
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Cân Bardd’s The Last Rain releases on February 22nd. You can and should pre-order it via the Bandcamp link above.