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J.W. Pozoj - "Escape of Pozoj" (CD)

J.W. Pozoj - "Escape of Pozoj" CD cover image

"Escape of Pozoj" track listing:

1. Prolog: Vjecno Robljem
2. Iz Grotla Života
3. --- (instrumental)
4. Song of Pozoj
5. Trpaš se po Mesima
6. Careless are Your Souls
7. I am the Forest
8. Prstima Prelazim Preko Tvoga Tijela

Reviewed by on February 12, 2010

"The album is artsy without becoming self-indulgent or silly, and heavy without becoming brutal enough to lose the melody."

J.W. Pozoj is a nearly unknown face in the metal arena, which probably shouldn’t be surprising, as there aren’t many Croatian metal bands that have made a lasting impact on the genre yet. What is surprising is how well crafted an album “Escape of Pozoj” is, and how well the disc manages to straddle the line between artistic and aggressive. The album is artsy without becoming self-indulgent or silly, and heavy without becoming brutal enough to lose the melody.

Although the band’s moniker seems like the name of a solo metal act, J.W. Pozoj is very much a full group affair, and has the sound and production level to prove it. The case and insert are not only extremely high quality but also visually stunning, immediately showcasing the strong themes of the cycle of life, death, and eventual rebirth. “Escape of Pozoj” is the second in a trilogy of albums that personify the theme, situated in between “Birth of Pozoj” and “Return of Pozoj.”

The album opens with “Prolog Vjecno Robljem,” which starts off with deep and dark synth effects played in a repeating pattern. When another layer of fat and distorted keys get added into the mix the song almost brings to mind the soundtrack from a ‘70s or ‘80s horror flick, thick with atmosphere and dread. The use of synths seems more like it is there to create the mood, rather than just enhance it. Even as the bass and guitar get worked into the song it keeps a nice medium doom pace that is both somber and vaguely menacing. The appearance of the vocals is quite the event, as they are abrasive and throaty with a wet feel.

Cycles are an ever present motif throughout the album, and they even define how the tracks end and begin. Songs don’t just transition smoothly, they transition positively seamlessly without any noticeable skip. The final riffs or vocals of any given song are crafted specifically to shift into the opening sounds of the next song, whether the music is energetic and aggressive or somber and mournful. Eventually the track break downs seem to be just a concession to tradition. It is clear the album is a single experience meant to be listened to all the way through.

“Escape of Pozoj” is unquestionably a black metal album, but it isn’t freezing cold and doesn’t always keep up an overbearing assault. There is a constant air of melody in the mayhem and an overall feel of mysticism. The blast beats don’t even make an appearance until the third track, and they are only used when it fits the sound, which shows the band isn’t particularly interested in sticking to an overused formula just because it’s expected of a black metal band.

There are a few other twists and turns throughout the album, such as the unexpected clean vocals on “I Am The Forest.” The accent of the vocalist adds a whole different level of atmosphere, creating a Gothic and theatric feel without even trying. The clean vocal segment may bring to mind vampires and grandiose operas, but it lacks the fake posturing that would make a similar song from other bands fall flat on its face and become a self-parody. The surrounding music also keeps it out of the realm of the emo style and firmly in melodic black metal that demands the listener’s attention.

As a final nod to the idea of life coming full circle, the last track brings back the keyboard-heavy segments from the opening song, albeit with some new direction. Another round of clean vocals also make an appearance, combining with the synths and clean guitars in a way that feels a bit like older Moonspell. The song is a thirteen minute monster of long, ambient soundscapes. Somehow J.W. Pozoj manages to use the same guitar riff for over nine minutes of the track, but the song flows so well it never actually becomes repetitive.

“Escape of Pozoj” is an ambitious stab at melodic and avant-garde black metal that should put J.W. Pozoj on the radar for anyone who likes their metal to try something new. The continuing theme of the album may be a little daunting, as it works much better as a whole than broken up into smaller chunks, but the extended listen is well worth the effort.

Highs: Lots of melody and daring artistic touches as well as throaty and abrasive black metal vocals.

Lows: The album practically demands to be heard in one sitting, which may not sit well with some.

Bottom line: An ambitious album that succesfully combines melody and artistry with aggressive black metal.

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)