What’s better than finding great music? Finding music that gets better and better each time you listen to it. Since starting Resounding Footsteps I can name a few times when I loved an album the first time I heard it and it became better with each passing listen. First it was Gaoth, then it was Zuriaake, and now it’s Dzö-nga. Performing one of those random searches on Bandcamp, I found the album tucked away in the atmospheric/avant garde black metal tag. I was initially intrigued by the cover art. It was grim and folkish, with a wonderful color palette. Deciding I had nothing to lose I hit the play button on The Sachem’s Tales. What did I find there? Let’s find out.
The album starts off with an instrumental track that reminds me of all the melodrama movie soundtracks that open with a grey sheet of raining falling over a hyper depressive city where the protagonist wonders aimlessly about the place. Not that I have anything against movies that start that way (my favorite genre of film is in fact drama) but Dzö-nga does it better. With just a simple two-minute track, they create a dismal but beautiful, depressive yet poignant atmosphere. That alone gave me high hopes about the album. As the album went on, I was more impressed by the use of piano as a musical counterpoint of the guitars and drums. I’ve said before that the piano is the undisputed king of all instruments and it’s albums like this that remind me why I believe that. The piano creates a wonderful foundation for the atmosphere of the music that continues to build through the album. The piano keeps the music grounded, keeps the guitars and drums focused so they don’t get lost in their own echo.
The Sachem’s Tales features two vocalists, a raspy growling male voice and an ethereal female voice. I’m hard pressed to say which one I like more though. At my first listen, I loved the female vocals, I thought they outstripped the male vocals and the album was better when she was singing rather than when he was. But as I listened to the album over again (as I said before the album became better and better with each listen) my opinion changed. In the end, I think the vocals complement each other, the male raspy vocals work better when the guitars are in control of the music’s momentum and the female vocals work much better when the piano is the center point.
The album is highly dichotomic, meaning that there were two forces at work throughout the entire album. There are two sides to each song, two voices, and two styles. On their own they were okay, they were good but it would have been difficult to stand out against the crowd. Together though, they are of the best of the year. They work off each other brilliantly. The transition back and forth between the two sides is done brilliantly as well; they don’t just stop and start, they blend and meld together so that the listener doesn’t quite recognize the change at first. It’s strange that such a subtle shift can combine two vastly different styles. But Dzö-nga pulls it off. The tone of The Sachem’s Tales is calm and subdued but has a lot of tension and rage boiling beneath the surface that bursts out here and there with wild frenzy. The Sachem’s Tale was highly entertaining, it was the equivalent to playing the mud during the rain and playing knights and dragons. Even when the album was over the memories remain. It brings out a sense of nostalgia. The world is full of tales, it’s vibrant and full of things to learn and experience. And of course, once the album is over, you can always hit the play button again.
The Sachem’s Tales is a damn good listen that I’ve been recommending to people almost as soon as I finished the album. It has that Cascadian black metal feel without the actual Cascadians (Dzö-nga originates in Massachusetts). Maybe this could be the advent of a “New England” style? Maybe that’s too much for my ultra-categorized heart to hope for. Either way, Dzö-nga represents an amazing blend of atmospheric black metal with lots of folk thrown in for good measure. I found it highly enjoyable and I can’t imagine anyone disagree with me here.
Highlights: To the Great Salt Sea, A Seventh Age of Fire, Halle Ravine
For Fans Of: Agalloch, Gaoth, Wolves of Avalon
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- Midewiwin Lodge
- To the Great Salt Water
- The Wolves Fell Quiet
- Halle Ravine
- Against the Northern Wind
- A Seventh Age of Fire
- The Witching Meadow
The Sachem’s Tales was released through Avantgarde Music on June 14th, 2017