Burshtyn are one of the bands I heard of thanks to improbable social network connections and unlike many others who popped up in my feed, they had actually caught my attention in a pretty positive way and I was looking forward to seeing them at the Ragnard Reborn Nove Kolo in Kharkiv, Ukraine.
In addition to their stunning teaser / video invitation of the festival in which the singer is riding a horse, I was really impressed and pleased by their stage outfits which were impregnated of Ukrainian / Cossack folklore and elegance. Somehow, all these efforts and attention to detail reflects an attitude and way of doing things I’ve noticed nowhere else than in Ukraine so far.
They have a remarkable way of not being kidding you through their albums booklets for instance. It is high quality materials filled with superb illustrations which makes you end up buying a full art product.
Above anything else, what impressed me even more is that the Burshtyn project is only two albums old with The Daredevils’ Ashes and Nothingarian respectively released in 2015 and 2016.
When it comes to the concert and the music itself, they mainly played their most recent album which gave me a good feeling of quality and efficient black metal. Nothingarian is the kind of album where right from the outset, there’s no fooling around. They have this implacable, fully controlled strength led by an omnipresent bass and enlightened by recurrent folkloric melodies.
“Kolovorot” is the greatest blend of it all. This anthem-like song refers to an old festival that used to take place in Kharkiv on the winter solstice. It had its first period from 1998 (of which I even found a VHS video, it’s worth what it’s worth but that’s an incredible rarity to me) to 2010. It then reborn as Kolovorot Nove Kolo (new circle) in 2017 for the summer solstice this time, which is where Burshtyn played for the very first time. Thus Burshtyn thank Nokturnal Mortum‘s manager and crucial actor of Ukraine’s metal scene and industry Dmytro Blyzno at this occasion.
But my favourite is rather “Yantarnyy Sokil Voli” which has the most complete evolution to me, from a cataclysmic ramping intro, keeping a frenetic pace leading to a tensed, electrical break. I have a predilection for songs in which I can sense a form of danger, the imminent thumb coming from above. Speaking of which, the insane laughs at the end of “Khrest Ikopon” add a significant touch to this ever galloping, unstoppable mayhem.
Yet it is followed by the historical Ukrainian ballad “Pro Mazepu i Paliya” which deals with the Paliy Uprising in which Cossacks and farmers rose up against the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in the early XVIIIth century. This acoustic break was at first quite a surprise but not only it feels refreshing, it is also fascinating when you take a closer look to it and get to know the band’s concept as well as their background more. The thunder takes over as “Tryzub miy styah, tryzub miy horn” strikes. This is the last offensive, the last hymn and the final bow of Nothingarian.
Since I had bought both their albums in Ukraine to hear the growth of their sound as I enjoy doing, it would be a pity not to share my impressions here. As expected, everything sounds rawer, rough and ready even on The Daredevils Ashes. It is the first draft of today’s sound on many points, especially on “Nepotribno khrysta” yet slower on the whole. It also had its surprises here and there such as the dancing tune on “Chortomlyk” as well as the beautiful Ukrainian traditional song “Oy tam na hori…” fully led by female voices, coming just before “Kozak” on which the final keyboards melody amusingly remind of “Kolovorot”.
So Burshtyn have followed a pretty smooth and constant evolution so far, and I can’t wait to hear what their next move will sound like.
Nothingarian is out now.