Year of release: 2020
Released by: Nomos Dei Productions
Rating: 7,4 / 10
Black Metal from Russia - new album, but very old music. The base of SMAUG can be considered Stavropol, where the vocalist and chief ideologist of the group lives. However, according to the publisher's press release, the rest of the team live in other places and do not even know each other - SMAUG is a kind of secret society. It is quite easy to find out who the vocalist really is. since the Stavropol scene is prolific, but small, and not everyone is fond of orthodox Black Metal there. The name “SMAUG” itself and the contact address on the back help with this. The rest is more difficult. There are photographs on the panels of the digipak, but it is almost impossible to recognize anyone on them.
Well, okay, we are not here to expose, although the fashion for anonymity is pretty annoying. “Open My Grave” is a slab of the primordial Black Metal, simple and unpretentious. With all that it implies. The album is divided into two parts, the first is inspired by the Devil, the second by Lovecraft. Both parts contain three songs and open with deliberately primitive synth intros. Relatively speaking, the first part is a little more aggressive and fast, and the second is more atmospheric, but the differences are not particularly sharp. It's just that in the “Lovecraftian” half there are more slow fragments, and the synthesizer is brought to the fore, as a result of which the music takes on a special mystical flavor. On the “devilish” half, the synthesizer sounds in the background or disappears altogether. Therefore, the album at first resembles DARKTHRONE and PEST, but closer to completion it evokes associations with the early EMPEROR, SATYRICON and GEHENNA. Although the synth parts here are perhaps more straightforward. Both halves of the album are united by the traditional aesthetics of darkness, frost and indestructible Evil. If you think about it, you don't see such things often these days. There is no doubt that this very cold Satanic flame that once destroyed many churches throughout Scandinavia burns in the souls of the musicians.
The only weakness of this album stems from its very nature. For almost 30 years, all the juices have been squeezed out of this style of music, and in order to say a big word in it, you either have to be brilliant composers or painstakingly build the sound and atmosphere. The sound of SMAUG is moderately old-school, and the songs are created by skillful traditionalists, but not geniuses. They are just good. “Open My Grave” should be listened to first of all for the sake of the idea, not the riffs. Or don't listen to it at all - the album cover convincingly conveys the musicians' thoughts on this and all other reasons and considerations that you and I may have.
The album was released in six-panel digisleeve limited to 190 h/n copies. Unfortunately, all the lyrics were left overboard. Panels are filled with photos of musicians
as large as life, and from the back you can find out that the design was done by Yag Mort and Horth. In addition to computer design, the work of eminent artists was limited to drawing a single malicious frame, which was scattered across all six panels. Details on a video.