Album Title: 
Krwawy Pontyfikat
Release Date: 
Friday, November 10, 2023
Review Type: 

Even-though this recording got released half a year ago, I will still write down a couple of words about it. Okrütnik (which apparently means ‘cruel man’ in Polish) is quite a young band (formed in 2018) with an acceptable yet not memorable (personal opinion, so don’t shoot me) first full-length in 2020: Legion Antychrysta, released via Poland’s finest Ossuary Records. And as part of a bundle, released at the end of Autumn 2023 by the very same label, Okrütnik offer us, the innocent audience, their sophomore full-length album. It’s the first effort with a renewed line-up, available on compact-disc and tape (and digitally, of course).

First a word about the visual art, done by Dawid Boldys (Shred Perspectives Works): a perfect visualization of both the album’s title and the lyrical approach: diabolism, occultism, blasphemy and ritualism of the most demonic kind…

Line-up on the recording, for your information: Marcin ‘Werwolf’ Kulik (lead vocals, guitars, lyrics and song-writing), Szymon ‘Grabarz’ Garbarczyk (basses), Eryk ‘Büllet’ Kula (lead guitars, song-writing and lyrics, as well as recording and mixing duties), and Tomasz ‘Rogas’ Rogacki (drums).

Krwawy Pontyfikat lasts for thirty-eight minutes and surprises me enormously. After the intro 1978, this bloody pontificate offers a timeless attack on the ears, on the psyche, and on your neck’s muscles. Rooted in the glorious supremacy of the Old School, the opening title track (after the aforementioned intro, evidently) overwhelms with a tasty assault of Black, Death, Speed, Thrash and Heavy Metal. I mean, this reeks of what caused a worldwide epidemic in the Eighties, when all of us just got aroused by an aural shockwave of muSICKal terror.

Okay, I do exaggerate a little, yet references to Blackened Speed / Thrash Metal, War Black Metal and Teutonic Thrash Metal from the earliest years are of undeniable influence in this album’s case. It means that Okrütnik still do not reinvent the scene (at all), but why should they anyway. Their song-writing and execution are amazing this time, even-though originality or renewal are totally absent. Yet still there’s a sense of innovation within, and behind, their composing, for the band does not just ‘copy’ the scene, but they sort of create a characteristic, own-faced (scar-faced) approach this time.

Of course the result is fast and energetic, with dynamic rhythms, intense textures, and a pounding tempo. The latter, that tempo, varies (just like the song-structures themselves; see later). As said, it’s fast (what else did you expect), yet with several fine tempo-changes, and a pace that differs from mid-tempo over kinetic to blasting. But not once, the speed creates a feeling of exaggeration, because of the solid and stable constructions. Of course, a big deal is guitar-driven, with fiery tremolo leads and blasting solos, ripping twin-work and fingerspitzen string-picking. Also the rhythm and bass guitars are power-driven, catapulting the whole right into the blasting universe. Great too are the drums, trespassing purely blast-eruptions because of a certain ingeniously executed performance. Take Lochy Watykanu, for instance, which proves Rogas’ talented play, with that gentle rape of double-bass, snare drums, toms, and cymbals. Nice too are the vocals, being of the blackened kind in the first place. Mister Werwolf turns out to be a splendid vocalist with a grim, rough throat, putting a grunting timbre within his black-pitched screams. There are some additional shouts and growls too, yet these are rather random (yet when used, very efficient).

A word about the quality of sound. Krwawy Pontyfikat has been recorded at the Tvvardovvian Barn Ov Hell studio (which I did not know at all) by Herr Büllet, and it got its final mastering by Janusz Grabowski, who also worked with e.g. Shadow Warrior, Ramera or Death Has Spoken, besides his own band Divine Weep. The result is top-notch, which means that it holds the middle in between a necessary unpolished roughness at the one hand, yet a perfectly balanced sound at the other too. The fine equilibrium of all parties concerned (i.e. the four members and their instrumental toys) is, therefore, sublime and well-thought.

Without doubt, this album is one of the best Thrash / Black-Thrash recordings in a decade, and a huge step forward compared to the band’s 2020 debut!