Sometimes I’m left twitching by how little attention particular albums get. Maybe they were poorly distributed, maybe they didn’t get much promotion, or maybe everyone else just thought they sucked. But good ol’ Voidhanger caught on to them and liked them, so he’s going to trudge up the past and occasionally review old albums out of the blue. It’s a form of maintenance; they begin to smell funny if they don’t see the light of day once in a while. With that, I’m going to talk about Kinstrife & Blood, an Australian atmospheric black metal band who released a single album, “On Paths Long Forgotten…” in 2006 on GoatowaRex. It was commonly considered a Summoning clone, and that’s generally true; everything here emulates their symphonic, mid-paced black metal, and Kinstrife & Blood capture a similar ancient fantasy atmosphere. That shouldn’t be seen as a detriment, but rather a compliment to Kinstrife & Blood; Summoning sets a very high bar and there is no reason why a Summoning fan would want to skip this album. It scratches that itch perfectly.
“On Paths Long Forgotten…” is a subdued, oneiric affair that may not reach the epic heights of other albums in the same vein, but instead has a very withdrawn sound, fraught with melancholy and resounding with the sorrow of defeat. After a brief intro, “The Bronze Army” starts with a horn-like, marching synth. The drumming is programmed, with the crisp cymbals echoing beautifully in the perfect digital silence behind it all. The trebly guitars and synth compete for your attention, both defining memorable passages. Three-quarters in, sounds of feet shuffling in unison can be heard, and the song then moves smoothly into a subtly triumphant epilogue. The second track and highlight of the album, “Grey Lands,” is a meandering, lonely tune. The guitars are brought to the forefront with beautiful melodies, while the synth plucks away dreamily in the background.
As clouds walk over a wind swept moor,
Battle looms on a horizon lined so pale,
The wisp of mist clings to the gnarled and knotted trees,
As they watch over mountains grey.
“As the Hawk Flies Over Embattled Waters” again highlights the guitars with long, wandering passages. Closing things off, “The Walking Dead Amongst the Fog” features harp-like sounds lurking behind long, drawn-out guitar notes. They’re then pushed into the background, as the song moves to a steady, mid-paced beat and for the first time really allow Balam’s rasping vocals to come through as the main focus of the music. Before long, it returns to the atmospheric opening of the song and fades into silence.
Alright, let’s cut the crap and go full nerd here; if Summoning is “The Lord of the Rings,” then Kinstrife & Blood is its appendices; hazy glimpses into fragmented stories that never had the fortune of being scrawled down. “On Paths Long Forgotten…” is akin to listening to something that was lost in time and never meant to be heard again, like the mournful tune a warrior whistled to himself as he went off to battle, never to return.
Unfortunately, it seems that Kinstrife & Blood is no more, but some material that was originally intended for a second album snuck its way into Drowning the Light’s “From the Abyss,” so that might also be worth checking out if “On Paths Long Forgotten…” is up your alley.
You can find Voidhanger on on twitter bemoaning the great forgotten metal albums and collecting squirrel beanie babies.