One of the best things about being a reviewer is receiving a curveball, getting your hands on a piece of music or collection of songs and discovering that it isn’t quite what you expected. The re-issued EP ‘Noitatulen Vartija’ by Finnish artist Kyprian’s Circle is one of these curveballs. On first listen this sounds like low-fi classic sounding black metal fused with passages of melody, touches of folk and symphonic sections.
There is a haunting vibe that creeps throughout, one that threatens hurt but delivers a kind of strange calming comfort for the most part. Part of that comes from the production style having a raw atmosphere, there is so much character present and it makes for a highly pleasing listen. Ultimately this puts the EP in the space of being more like a demo recording and for some that might not be desirable.
You will occasionally hear the drums not stay in time quite right. The bass is a standard p-bass tone which employs chords at times and the playing is a little lumpy at times. The guitar is HEAVILY mid focused and doesn’t employ many tricks in performance. Kyprian’s vocals stay in one place, Black Metal. His delivery is not disparate from what is expected yet seamlessly fits in with the often varied approach taken in the music. The lack of production polish, perfect timing and occasional perfect tuning give the music itself a soul. At 18 minutes long it’s a rather short experience and I think that’s this EPs’ saving grace, the length allows for enjoyment without the imperfections becoming long in the tooth. There isn’t much in the way of variety and clever arrangements, it’s simply all about creating a dark vibe.
Now, the curveball, you might ask. This EP was originally self released in 1999 and is the debut EP of Kyprian’s Circle. It is also a final production. From 1994 onwards a few demos and a split ep was released but this was the band’s only real output. To some this isn’t much of a big deal and that is fair enough, to me it’s a chance to listen to something from nearly 20 years ago that otherwise I’d never have known about and I think it’s awesome that releases like this happen, keeping music that would otherwise have no chance of finding an audience from those that might be looking. I see it as a part of an underground time capsule of production values.
The ep starts off with the instrumental “Ikiyön liekit” (Flames of Evernight), a march of piccolo snare drums set to a repeating nylon acoustic guitar and bass, repeating the same passage for about a minute.
Following up is “Kun puhui myrskyn henki” (When the Storm Spirit Spoke), the first full song of the EP. It begins where Flames left off, an acoustic intro that bursts into a swell of melodic distortion and reverb. At 6 minutes long, this is pretty much the bulk of the production in one hit. Though it has a tendency to be a bit repetitive, musical layers of various instruments are added over the course of the track.
The title track “Noitatulen vartija” (Guard of the Witchfire) shoots directly into Black Metal territory with alternating kicks and snares firing at a rapid pace, slowing into a groove that slowly gets taken over by a distorted piano that frantically pounds away dissonant arpeggios. It becomes rather claustrophobic very quickly.
“Helvetin pajassa on miekkamme taottu” (In The Forgery Of Hell Our Swords Are Forged) continues to keep the comfort levels to a minus albeit at a slower pace. Tremolo picked guitars, a humming bassline and alternating kick-snare drums chug along. It basically sounds like a mind tearing itself apart for the fun of it.
Last on the EP is “Kuolemasi minä olen” (I am your death), it revisits the vibes presented in Flames. Some of the lyrical passages are eerie, translated into English:
“At last you found me, in your shadow, who will follow you forever. I’m the one who got the tears to flow. I’m the one who got your soul to grieve.”
In short, it probably won’t be a recording that you’ll have on continuous repeat and its appeal will be limited to those who are enamoured with the DIY-like sound of early Black Metal. That notwithstanding, it will certainly be appreciated for its imperfection and dark vibes.
I’d like to take a moment to thank Markus Vanhala for providing translations for this review. Without his help this review would have had a rather unfortunate and lewd typo.
Grab your copy of Noitatulen Vartija HERE