One-man black metal band Blackbraid is the project of Sgah’gahsowáh, who is of Native American descent and continues to bring that lore to the band’s second album Blackbraid II. It’s a sprawling experience that leads the listener to grandiose soundscapes that are matched by the extreme shifts in the band’s sound throughout the album.
“Autumnal Hearts Ablaze” serves as a mere opener before the chaos of “The Spirit Returns” takes you to new heights. Chugging riffs are balanced with tremolo picked ones and Sgah’gahsowáh’s shrieks hit that much harder within the context of the longer form songs which range from four and a half minutes to epics that are over 10 minutes long.
Tales of wolves, moons, and spirits go a long way to introduce listeners to the historical and metaphysical experience of indigenous Americans. “The Wolf That Guides the Hunter’s Hand” is Sgah’gahsowáh’s first long form song and one that makes an immediate impact with high and lows; paradigm shifts aplenty allowing for Blackbraid to fully flesh out its sound.
The two instrumental tracks serve the purpose of transitioning into a different celestial plane, as if to sit fireside and await the next day. “Moss Covered Bones On The Altar Of The Moon” is the album’s longest track, making it to nearly 14 minutes before it’s through. After a relatively innocuous start, things get taken to another level with a beautiful melody that rides the initial wave of the riff that helps to give this piece life. Flutes off in the distance give even more depth to this ever-expansive movement.
Following that up is “A Song of Death on Winds of Dawn,” acting as a time shift forward from the sort of sacrificial practice that took place on the prior track, reflecting the demise of a soul the morning after the deed was inevitably done. A substantially quieter section of the song might be allowing for the soul to reach paradise with more of the flutes coming in to signify the passing, before the band launches headlong into a drum and guitar fueled finale marking the end of the 1-2 punch of his longest tracks to date.
It would be hard to say much more without giving away some more of the greatest parts of Blackbraid II with the excellent stories to be told, atmosphere nearly without equal and perhaps one of the single most important American black metal albums since Panopticon’s Kentucky. This album is an absolute experience and offering to the gods, not just on this continent but even to the genre’s forebearers, with a cover of Bathory’s “A Fine Day To Die” to close things out.
Sgah’gahsowáh has outdone himself and is forging a new path forward for black metal in 2023, one that will likely continue to set him apart from his contemporaries and become one of the biggest new faces in the genre for years to come.
(released July 7, 2023)
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Listen To Blackbraid – “Moss Covered Bones On The Altar Of The Moon”