Review: Kiova ‘Empty Fields And Smoke-Filled Skies’

It’s become an increasing phenomena to see the lines between post-hardcore and post-black metal blurred. It’s not a surprising development by any extent, both ‘post’ genres share an origin genre that is fast, raw and aggressive as well as being reactionary, they just come from very different places. Recently though there’s been a flurry of bands in the blackgaze segment of post-black metal who, whether noted by critics or not, take swathes of melodic influence from the post-hardcore bands of the late 90s and early 2000s.

Kiova 'Empty Fields and Smoke-Filled Skies'

Alcest, Deafheaven, Harakiri For The Sky, Oathbreaker and Ghost Bath, all take as much from Thursday, Thrice and Saosin as they do from Ride or My Bloody Valentine. We can even see the reverse happening, with the likes of Birds In Row and Rolo Tomassi, taking influence from these blackgaze bands on recent albums. Many also count the post-metal of Neurosis and Isis as big inspirations, so it’s notable that both of these groundbreaking bands emerged, to a certain extent, from the 90s hardcore scene.

There are of course tons more bands combining these sounds together in remarkable ways, one of which is Finnish five-piece Kiova. Hailing from Oulu in the relative north of Finland, Kiova‘s sound is one that blends a concoction of blackgaze and post-hardcore riffs with a markedly ambitious approach to songwriting that includes numerous post-metal tropes, giving their latest release Empty Fields And Smoke-Filled Skies a highly endearing quality. There’s an atmosphere to the EP which evokes much of the wilderness and tundra that surrounds their home, but the band combines this with a striking sense of humanity that pulls this record from the thematic abstract of many nature inspired metal albums.

The opening track The Great Famine begins in a full-throttle thrashy style that segues back and forth into a more emotive blackgaze melody. The vocals switch between deep, booming growls and more natural anthropic screams. At the midway point it goes full on Deafheaven with a lush reverb soaked wall of guitars that leads us into an intensely heavy final movement. Towards the end the bassist begins running up and down the high end of his fretboard like he’s Steve Di Giorgio; it’s a subtle but highly effective addition to the final moments of the track that shows some real creativity in the instrumentation. With a final flourish the track ends in a pool of elastic reverb from which the ethereal opening arpeggios of the next track appear.

The screams are extremely powerful when they emerge over a quieter break, and when the band rips from this straight into a ferocious blast beat riff, it’s absolutely tremendous…

From Man Of God To Voracious Beast begins in a huge soundscape of droning reverb with those crisp arpeggios cutting through before bursting into a slow doomy riff that, when overlaid with the low vocals, has a very Cult Of Luna-esque tone. The screams are extremely powerful when they emerge over a quieter break, and when the band rips from this straight into a ferocious blast beat riff, it’s absolutely tremendous. The track continues to push and pull to the end, switching between dark melodies and melancholic riffs that continue in the post-metal vein, and each time they make the transfer, the emotion builds up towards a sensational epiphany.

The final track A Glimpse Beyond also flows directly from the last, and is the most overtly blackgaze track here; the opening mountain of echoing guitar leads and shoegazing chords evoke the best moments of Agalloch and Alcest. Once again the juxtaposing vocals give the track a vibrancy and depth far beyond the wall of sound. A third of the way in though and suddenly it’s like switching over to Deadguy or Snapcase; a slew of atonal chords and percussive metalcore riffs appear in the track like a boxing glove punch. The track continues to meld back and forth from this skronky riffing into the dreamy blackgaze sound, and it’s a highly effective way of continually keeping the listener on edge, not allowing too much comfort in the waves of luxurious melodies that close out the album.

There is a certain authenticity to this record which can, on occasion, get lost in the genre. I’m not suggesting that this EP would attract trve cvlt black metal fans, but it certainly isn’t one for fair-weather blackgaze fans either. If anything there is a distinctively post-metal way in which the band craft their tunes, maintaining an intensity and veracity even in the quieter moments, a quality which I believe can be traced back to post-hardcore. What’s more there’s an overwhelming sense of grief, sorrow and despair that defines the atmosphere, leaveing a deep impression after only a few listens.

I’m genuinely quite moved by this EP, and if there was anyone wondering whether blackgaze had reached its zenith as a genre, then Kiova should be definitive proof that it still has much more to give.

Label: Off Records | Maniyax Records
Band Links: Facebook | Bandcamp | Instagram

Scribed by: Will J