Welcome to Throwback Thursday! This is the place where we get to indulge in nostalgia and wax poetic about excellent metal of years past. Today's 89th TBT features the sixth studio album from Russian riffers Kauan. Sorni Nai is a uniquely intimate and gorgeous album for a disturbing, somber topic. From Kauan's official website Sorni Nai is, "…an apogee of long form. One song, 50 minutes," reaching just shy of Green Carnation's 60 minute and 6 second one-song epic Light of Day, Day of Darkness. Sorni Nai is a tribute to those who lost their lives at the Dyatlov Pass incident. The circumstances surrounding the event are beyond bizarre, and to this day the puzzle of what happened in the Ural mountains is still unsolved. A perfect topic for journalists, scientists, conspiracy theorists, and musicians alike, Kauan embarked on the task of emoting this mystery into music – and created a stunning album as a result.
KAUAN'S SORNI NAI
Release Date: October 2015
Record Label: Blood Music
Sometime between February 1st and 2nd in the year 1959, 9 hikers from the Ural Poly-technical Institute unexpectedly lost their lives while trekking up a mountain called Kholat Syakhl. According to Wikipedia, during the night in question, something spurred the group of experienced hikers to literally tear out of their tents. The tents had been cut open from the inside, and the hikers fled the camp entirely inadequately dressed for the sub-zero temperatures and snow. Some were found in just their underwear or in articles of clothing which weren't theirs; others had just socks, another with one sole boot on. Most of the hikers died of exposure (hypothermia), but 3 of the 9 hikers died from various bodily trauma. One hiker died from a skull fracture; the other two a chest trauma. The mix of deeply disconcerting circumstances leaves the mind wandering in the possibility of this: what could have conceivably happened to make smart, veteran hikers panic enough to leave all of their belongings behind and flee for their lives?
The suspicions for the cause of the misadventure vary widely. The subsequent investigation of the event concluded that a "compelling natural force that they were unable to overcome" had caused the deaths. According to a 2017 article from snopes.com, David Emery writes, "Public access to the site was banned for three years. The results of the investigation were classified." According to dyatlovpass.com, there were traces of 8 of the 9 hikers' footprints, and the lack of other footprints means that no one else had entered the site. The enigma of what happened deepens with the uncovering of each sordid detail, and speculations have been running wild about what exactly happened for decades. Some suspect the threat of an avalanche scared them off, some believe that it could have been an animal attack; others believe something far more sinister, even other worldly, happened. You can read more about these theories and subsequent research here at dyatlovpass.com.
Considering the depth of the tragedy, and the mass interest surrounding it, creating an honest, respectful musical homage would be no easy task. And yet Kauan manage to create a sonic piece, drenched in atmosphere, that tells the story darkly and wondrously through swaths of beauty and elegantly-crafted lows. The cover of Sorni Nai is a bleak interpretation of an actual photo from the expedition, roughly sketched in monochromatic hues. It's simplicity foreshadows the events to come, as 4 figures cross-country ski off into the distance.
Leading with purposeful grace, Sorni Nai drips with ambiance, arresting the listener within the first few minutes as would any compelling story. The record lies on the fringe of the metal genre, as does a band like Alcest, thanks to it's softer-leaning riffs. However, Sorni Nai couldn't be and shouldn't categorized elsewhere as the tension, note changes, growling lyrics, and heavier riffs read as distinctly metal.
Lyrically, Sorni Nai treats the subject matter with a poetic flair, while the music evokes a sense of the power of nature's wrath. It reminds the listener that there is both beauty and brutality in our Earth and it's climate, and that these terrestrial elements are indifferent to the lives of animals and humans.
You can listen to the entire album for free on their Bandcamp (and, should the music move you, you can choose to throw a few dollars at them), however the band is defunct on many social media platforms including Facebook. If you for some reason can't use Bandcamp, you can listen to the entire album on YouTube:
If you're looking to experience the frigidity of winter in a whole new way, Sorni Nai will bring you to a spectacular and transcendent new vantage point of what it means to be cold. If you want to check out what Kauan is up to, you can head over to kauanmusic.com.