Zørza / The Impressively Haunting Post-Black Metal Experience Of Hellven

Following up on their four-track debut EP, IEI, released last June, Polish Post-Black Metal outfit Zørza, whose name translates to Northern Lights, return with their first full-length offering, the nine-track, forty-three-minute Hellven.

Zørza – Hellven (Godz Ov War)

Release Date: 7 June 2024

Words: Jools Green

The trio consisting of E. Lange on guitars, K. Bartkowiak, who wrote the superbly bleak and reflective lyrics and covers bass and backing vocals and vocalist Refur, are joined for this release by session musicians M. Wróbel on drums, and M. Wrzesiński performing the guitar solo on The Crown With Silver Thorns.

The band describe Hellven as “an oneiric voyage into a forgotten realm suspended between two worlds. To a place where you can find things far more depressing and scarier than those we know from our heart. In this God-forgotten place, you can only count on yourself.” 

Zørza - Hellven (Godz Ov War)
Zørza – Hellven – “In this God-forgotten place, you can only count on yourself.”

Hellven opens on the short atmospheric intro Western Forest Rites, with its stormy soundbites creating the perfect canvas for the first track, Night Of The Werewolf, where dark driving riffs are melded with blackened melodic swathes and punctuated by acidic vocal bursts.

A piece that is dynamically phrased midway through as the pace drops, making space for the sound of howling wolves, elevating to a burst of searing leadwork and spoken lyrical elements before resuming the previous path, fading out on a haunting piano close. A powerfully engaging piece.

Next up, on Death II, a dark and haunting mood gives way to raw driving riffs and acerbic vocals, again interspersed with raw but melodic passages and reflective drops. It ebbs and builds with seamless fluidity, making this, again, a hugely engaging piece.

Lunacy Of Memories follows, which has a dramatic build into driving riffs. These are impacted by acidic vocal chants and dramatic ebbs, and the builds add to the overall depth of this pounding beast of a track.

The Crown With Silver Thorns is sharp yet reflective to open, gradually building into equally sharp statement riffs before surging into a blackened drive, melded with an acidic vocal delivery. Midway, it drops back, returning with a more haunting melodic feel followed by a soaring burst of leadwork. A superb track, possibly my favourite of the album. 

With the next piece, you get a change of style and mood, stepping briefly away from the Black Metal sound of the predecessors as the trio delivers an eerily atmospheric, keyboard-led instrumental, Zørza II.

Moving into Danse Macabre, again an instrumental that is initially very reflective to open, builds in tantalizing increments into a very dark reflective mood. This then delivers wave after wave of haunting black riffs, gently ebbing and building, with a statement midpoint drop and building back with punch and drama.

Overall, it’s a reflective piece where you can just lose yourself completely within those waves of riffs.

Penultimate offering, Under The Reign Of The Black Moon, crawls towards you in an almost ritualistic manner. When it ramps up, it is to a wave of raw black riffing punctuated with those acidic vocals, delivering a superb, undulating, up-tempo drive. Midway, you get a crushing drop of pace. Initially, it’s not so fast on the rebuild; instead, it has a heavier leaning but resumes the earlier course towards the close. A great piece of classic-style Black Metal.

Final piece is a cover of Windir’s Journey To The End from their 1184 album. Zørza have done a superb job of covering this iconic piece, staying true to the original, thereby making it a fitting tribute to the memory of Windir’s late vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Valfar.

Hellven was “darkly composed and grimly produced” by K. Bartkowiak and E. Lange, who also mixed the album. The mastering is by Cross Street Studio, and the classically styled cover art concept was created by ZØRZA and painted by Igor at WS Artworks.

Hellven will be available as a CD, vinyl, cassette or digital download.

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