Hungary is not Norway or France, but it has a thriving black metal scene of its own. Recent releases by Vorkuta and Aetherius Obscuritas (review here), both on Paragon, were of high quality. Now Autopsy Kitchen has reissued Marblebog's 2005 full-length Forestheart, originally released on cassette and limited-edition CD. The reissue reworks the layout of the original and gives it well-deserved wider distribution.
The change in artwork is significant (you can see the original here). Instead of bleak darkness, sunlight now streams through the forest canopy. This is a perfect representation of Marblebog. "Marble" is hard, "bog" is soft, and together they compose this band's duality.
Such contrast occurs in the use of keyboards vs. guitars. The first and last tracks are mostly ambient, with achingly astral keyboards and voices bubbling in the distance. In between are four tracks of raw black metal. These are outstanding, with some of the catchiest metal riffs you'll ever hear. At higher tempos, they'd be anthemic. Here, they're mid-paced, droning, and hypnotic. Eerie clean tones interject occasionally. "I Am the Forest Heart" is lofty, imperial, with a primal breakdown that features, of all things, jew's harp ("doromb" in Hungarian).
The vocals are an acquired taste, a cross between gargling and crying for help. However, their ineffability works. The point is sound, not text. Marblebog weaves together something at once both homemade and mystical. As the liner notes reveal, Forestheart isn't about black metal's typical negativity: "Heart of the forest is always silent / Heart of the forest includes always the whole." This is a patient record in service of deeper powers. Expect not to be hit over the head but to be fed inside it.