Multi-instrumentalist / composer / lyricist Artem ‘Voidger’ Kilka did form the outfit U Kronakh (also known as Ukronakh or У Kронах) in 2020 as an outlet to transform his ideas into sonic format. Since he originates from the Carpathian area (actually, the band is located in the city of Chernivtsi, in Ukraine, close to the borders with Moldova and Romania), he wanted to tell ‘a story about the spirits of antiquity who wander the forest paths of the Carpathian mountains in oblivion and find no rest’. Voidger (strings) joined forces with Ilya ‘Lycane’ Zuykov (drums) and Gennadiy ‘Monolith’ Kovriznikh (vocals), who are / were active in bands like Colotyphus, Paganland or Atra Mors Kvlt.
The trio recorded more than one hand full of songs that got gathered as Stonewounds. These ones eventually got mixed and mastered at the Black Dwell Records studios by Roman Sapozhnikov, who’s active as well in Colotyphus (cf. Monolith and Lycane). The compositions on Stonewounds are quite lengthy, varying from almost six to over nine minutes, which brings the total duration of this album close to fifty minutes. But I wouldn’t be disappointed if it did last much longer, for U Kronakh’s official debut is very convincing.
Okay, if you’re looking for originality, then this album is not what you might expect. U Kronakh’s Pagan / Black Metal is of the melodic kind, with a focus on epic structures and an atmospheric design. Production-wise, this material breaths the essence of Black Metal in a Scandinavian vein. The sound is not as unpolished a, let’s say, the famous Grieghallen-approach, but the result is undeniably comparable to the purity that characterized / characterizes the timelessness of the (European) scene.
As mentioned, Stonewounds is very melodious in essence. The role of the guitars acts like the core of the seven individual (yet coherent) hymns. Dueling riffs and harmonious leads create the heathen, epic and commanding posture behind the concept. They are recognizable, typifying this band’s body. The structures are well-thought and skillfully executed, going for all strings and percussions. The drums are played with a flavor of inconvincible pride, and, especially within the faster pieces, with a flavor of intolerance and determination. Vocal-wise, the better part is rather hoarse and raucous, but it gives the ‘story-telling’ a personal feel. Besides these blackish screams, Monolith very often comes with a deeper, roaring grunt, touching the cross-passing borders with the Blackened Death scene.
An important element within the variety is the speed, for Stonewounds differs from slowly pushing passages over mid-tempo pieces to fast, sometimes almost blasting moments. These transitions flow out very organically, with many tempo-changes interacting organically. Therefor, the technical side of the whole seems to shine bright and clear. These technical practices are not of the progressive kind, yet dwell within that rather ‘traditional’ intumescence.
For the physical release, U Kronakh signed to GrimmDistribution (also from Ukraine), part of the Satanath family, collaborating this time with Swiss label Krasta Records, The End Of Time Records (Ireland) and Kuyen Producciones (Chile). The jewel-case CD comes with an eight-page booklet, including the lyrics in both their mother-tongue as well as the English translation. It has quite sober yet fitting cover artwork (by Kseniya Martyniuk, who also developed the remarkable band-logo), while the visual design / artwork was taken care of by the honorable Mister Korolyov himself.