Blaze Of Perdition - Upharsin

Artist: Blaze Of Perdition

Album Title: Upharsin

Label: Metal Blade Records

Date of Release: 19 April 2024

I remember being pretty impressed with the last record that Poland’s Blaze Of Perdition released, 2020’s ‘The Harrowing Of Hearts’. As a result, I am pleased to be in the possession of the latest release from the band so that I can delve back into the dark world that they create with their brand of black metal.

Right from the very beginning of ‘Upharsin’, the Polish band’s sixth long player, however, you can tell something’s just a little bit different. Whereas ‘The Harrowing Of Hearts’ was more of an accessible-sounding affair, with a greater Gothic rock influence to it, ‘Upharsin’ is a more aggressive and venomous record. Whether or not this is a backlash to the pandemic, and the fact that most touring opportunities in support of their last album were curtailed, only the band themselves can tell us. But they do sound pretty angry here, both lyrically and musically.

According to quotes from the enigmatic band contained in the press release, ‘Upharsin’ attempts to “open the wounds of humanity as a collective. The album reflects on how humans tend to gravitate towards conflict and strife. How religions, politics as well as other aspects of our everyday life are tainted and driven by our lower instincts as we willingly refuse to learn from our own history, as we choose to ignore and neglect the shadow aspect of our psychic reality, which in turn takes us further and further in the everlasting cycle of violence.”

Yup, the Polish quartet of vocalist S, guitarists XCIII and M.R, and drummer VZN, alongside session bassist Wyrd, are definitely not in the best of moods. And this lyrical concept certainly translates into the music that finds its way onto this album. ‘Upharsin’ only features five tracks, but with a run-time that exceeds forty minutes, you don’t leave feeling short-changed at all. In fact, more accurately, you feel a little battered and bruised thanks to the intensity levels on display.

For one thing, the production and the approach here means that it feels like you’re listening to a wall of impenetrable sound, or standing in front of a giant wave, about to crash down around you. It’s certainly my first impression, anyway, and one that does subside a little once you get more familiar with the music. But that crushing feeling never fully disappears, as it’s part of the very fabric of the music. The guitars are uncompromising, dishing out fast-picked riffing as well as fuller, crunchier notes; together, they pose an intimidating prospect, aided and abetted by a deep, pulsing bass and a varied drum attack that metes out blastbeats with seeming ease and sadistic glee. And the vocals of S only serve to underline the aggression on ‘Upharsin’.

“W kwiecie rozłamu” (meaning ‘In Ruptures Prime’) gets us underway and is a veritable detonation of extreme metal, as the guitars and drums pummel in unison alongside an immediate spite-filled diatribe from S, exploring dark facets of the human psyche. However, after a couple of listens, there’s an elegant melodic line that comes through the tumult, sanding off those rough edges just a touch, keeping me interested in the process. In the mid-section of the song, the music descends into a more chaotic, almost unstructured affair which is intriguing, even if I tend to prefer the opening stages more. Atmosphere leeches into the music, as uncomfortable vocal samples are introduced during a momentary pause.

If nothing else, Blaze Of Perdition have my attention and for the most part of ‘Upharsin’, they use it wisely, weaving their extreme sonic tapestries throughout.

Blaze Of Perdition - Upharsin
Credit: Justyna Kamińska

The pace slows a little for ‘Przez rany’ (‘Through the Wounds’), at least at the beginning, as the bass guitar makes its presence known at the heart of the song. An insidiously catchy lead guitar line then leaves a mark as the intensity begins to increase slowly and inexorably. There’s definitely a kind of hypnotic quality to the track, as its dissonant notes churn and rumble, assisted by occasional ‘gang’ style vocals and a frenzied lead guitar solo to emphasise the increasing sense of chaos. But, as the song reaches halfway, a measure of epic melody is unleashed, led chiefly by the icy staccato lead alongside layers of synths that help to increase the oppressive atmosphere somewhat.

One of my favourite tracks arrives in the shape of ‘Niezmywalne’ (‘Indelible’). It’s another intense assault on the senses for much of the early proceedings, with speed being the order of the day from moment one, much of it laced by more claustrophobic atmosphere. Again, though, the halfway point signals a change in tack, with a much greater emphasis on melody shining through the walls of guitars and drums, culminating in a passage that’s utterly sublime to my ears. Not only is it melodic and epic, but it conveys real emotion, with more despairing, hopeless wails and moans coming to the fore.

Blaze Of Perdition also show how adept they can be when taking a slower approach. With ‘Architekt’, the end result is just as oppressive and powerful, but in a more measured and sinister fashion for greater periods, despite the bursts of pace that seemingly cannot be contained.

It all then ends with ‘Młot, miecz i bat’ (‘Hammer, Sword and Whip’) and it’s the perfect ending to the record. This is no less uncompromising a composition, but the layers of synths along with the elegant melodic sensibilities mean that it’s arguably the most epic composition of the five, and not just in length alone. Changes in tempo, great individual and collective performances, catchy and memorable moments, a final exuberant lead guitar solo, it’s all here. This is, for me, Blaze Of Perdition at their imperious best, and it demonstrates their undoubted quality. Overall, ‘Upharsin’ is a very good and commendable black metal album with many good facets and moments. It perhaps lacks the ultimate ‘wow’ factor for me, in order for it to be an essential purchase. But, for others, I suspect this will be a real contender.

The Score of Much Metal: 88%



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