I recently received an mp3 version of a brand new album by, at least to me, the completely unknown band Arwat from Croatia. The name of the band led me to think that instead of Slavic, Germanic or Baltic paganism like bands very dear to me, Russian Arkona, Croatian Stribog or even let’s say Ensiferum, I would listen to Indo-Aryan serenades and stories that fans of pseudo-historians, as it is the case in whole Balkans, are inclined to admire. Ummm… do you remember high school and almost philosophical topics for a writing assignment from literature that gave you a lot of trouble? When you are in a group having the task of analyzing, understanding or justifying a very problematic character from a read (or unread) novel? For thirty years, I lived happily ever after, thinking that I would never have to justify the highest grade with a fucked-up professor again. And I was wrong. I was given one of the most difficult homework assignments since the analysis of the Crime and Punishment.
Namely, this is a very controversial heavy metal band from Osijek, not because of the brutal music you could expect, on the contrary. First of all, I would like to refer to what makes this band controversial, and those are the lyrical themes they cover. That’s why I firstly decided to listen to their EP “Aryan Heretic” by which they started back in 2019. From the very beginning, the band constantly offered me the apotheosis of war, “glorious scytho-slavic-celtic weapon of the past” and what upset me the most and very is often repeated, nationalism but through allegory and ambiguity. Whenever I got shock therapy, the band would shove my head into a bucket full of cold water. It was this ambiguity that drove me to explore further. I had a feeling that was the goal of the band. The very image of the band members is intriguing, classic heavy metal freaks with one member who has corpse paint and at least makes me cringe.
After a shifts of shock and sometimes high sometimes low with music level on the EP, I first looked at the promo for their brand new album. They honestly knocked me off my feet with their irony, humor, sarcasm and excerpts from the most of the negative comments from their FB page, which referred to the EP. Not only did I smile but I laughed out loud. So, it was my turn to hear “Criminally Insane With Knowledge Of State Secrets.”
From the first notes, the great musical progress by which the band finally won me over is noticeable. Since I’m tired of an overly polished production that gives a completely unrealistic picture, Arwat musically offers a great old school metal sound. Although they are labeled as Thrash / Black Metal, the band is actually, in my humble opinion, on the line of that good classic heavy metal and it is very difficult to classify them in any of the subgenres. If you are musically speaking for the combination of the early Metal Church, Armored Saint, Iron Maiden with Thrash Metal taste and the extraordinary musicality of each member of the band individually, then the band is your real deal. If you add vocals that vary from punky metal to black metal vocals, you get Arwat.
In addition to unpolished production and headbanging atmosphere, Arwat is a typical example of a modern metal band where bass guitar together with the skills of a drummer who is not burdened with 320 bps double beat certainly plays a very important role in creating a fantastic heavy metal atmosphere that you did not experience if you didn’t live in 80’s. Excellent thrashy riffs and well-designed solos are the work of guitarists who really know their instruments, as evidenced by a fantastic acoustic piece that I have returned to several times. There is also a certain dose of progressive elements kinda early Coroner in some songs as well as alternative metal, especially in the song Ubojstvo na Ulici (Murder in the Street.)
Lyrically, the band, at least I have such an impression, shifted a lot to criticism of social stumbling, corruption and criminal. The anti neo-liberal attitude is strongly felt and politicians are often targeted in the songs. Normally, nationalism is still allegorically present with the apotheosis of war, as in the song Krvolok (Bloodthirsty), which begins with a sentence from the baptistery of the Croatian prince Višeslav.
You will also come across elements of Luciferianism on the album, but it is a stylistic figure. The band covered a song by singer Thompson whose songs bring together especially ultra-rightists and whose music I am absolutely not interested in or any music that nationalistically inflames the mass of any colors and nations, I must clearly point out and mention this in this review and it is the only song on album that is a cover but in heavy metal style and musically well done as well as it is not nationalistic song generally. There is also clearly allusion on COVID situation, so some lines in the lyrics, it seems, were purposely in some cases altered. I have to admit that lyrically, no matter what subject they choose, the guys do great. The songs are performed in Croatian and English.
Live, the band offers a real arsenal of good heavy metal gigs that bring underground club audiences to ecstasy, even when they suddenly do a cover of Iron Maiden or a band to their liking or they play their own songs. And of course, Arwat is there to shock or confuse you, to delight you or make you spit on them but they certainly didn’t leave me indifferent with their heavy metal.
Written by Zoran Pavlović