Words by Shannon-Lee Sloane – The Colourful Writer
When I am writing an album review, I first take time to sit with the album. I listen to it over and over for a number of days, sometimes even weeks. I take it in. Every note, every lyric, every feeling that it evokes in me. And sometimes, even after sitting with that album, I am a little lost for words. Because the feelings it brings out in me are not really something I can transfer into words, they seem somewhat invalid, almost not enough. Anyone who really loves music and listens to it intently will understand what I am talking about here. This year, I have written more album and EP reviews than ever and I love that, it has pushed me as a writer and I am enjoying it immensely. This year has been twisted and tormented by something the entire world has been affected by. A global pandemic has moved and changed our way of living, thinking and even feeling to some extent. Partially for the better, partially not. But what it has done, in a positive light, is given music lovers, music makers, music people, more time to just sit with new music. Not in a live setting, but at home, with an album, in whatever format. I am grateful for that. I mean, please don’t get me wrong here, live music is something I live for and I can’t wait for it to be back in a big way. But sitting at home, headphones on and tuning into a new piece of music, makes you focus on just that; the music.
I am grateful for Adriatic’s debut album, ‘Koreni’. This is more than just an album; it feels much more than that. A spiritual, political, passionate, brutally beautiful, at times disturbing (in a good way, if that’s even possible), relentless journey of ten tracks of Djent, Groove Metal, Progressive, Mathcore. I hear influences, inspiration and similarities to some bands I adore such as Gojira, Meshuggah, Deftones and even King Parrot (I will explain that last one later). But even though these similarities are there, Adriatic stand alone in their sound in the Brisbane music scene. I don’t know any other bands around like them right now; they have something really special to offer.
Adriatic have been around for a substantial amount of time, but the band is forever evolving into something more, something new and pushing forward. First forming in 2006, there have been a few line up changes and a couple of previously released EP’s and singles. Though I feel like it has all been leading to this moment, the release of their debut album. An album that you can feel and hear has a whole lot of blood, sweat and tears in it. The guys have poured their hearts and souls into this release and it deserves much praise and recognition not only in the local Metal scene, but much further than that.
Stoyan (Ctorh) Sharks – Vocals
Bojan Sambolec – Guitar
Tom Blunden – Guitar
Ryan Brown – Bass
Jesse Nikolic – Drums
The album opens with a hauntingly beautiful, echoing vocal from a renowned vocalist of Bulgarian Folk music, Reni Bojilov who resides in Brisbane and sings in the Folk duo, Zhiva Voda. On their Facebook page it states: ‘It has been said that to hear Bulgarian singing is to drink from magical waters, which can quench our thirst for beauty. We endeavor to bring it to you…’ Frontman, Ctorh Sharks asked Reni to be a guest vocalist on this track and after a little delay, she agreed. And I am so incredibly glad she did. Her stunning traditional Bulgarian Folk vocal gives this track something unique, moving and spiritual that is like nothing else. The combination of Ctorh’s growled vocals and Reni’s distinctive unique rhythms, harmony and vocal production is a little bit of magic. This magic sets a precedent for the entire album.
I am fortunate to own this amazing album on vinyl and in the album notes, Ctorh states “Ever since I left Bulgaria, I’ve felt the continuous push-pull of missing my homeland and the drive to explore the world. The lyrics of the song, Koreni are based on a Bulgarian Folk song. I adapted them to reflect the curse of feeling my heart forever torn between the past and the future, rarely able to live in the present. …” This was so heart wrenching and yet so beautiful to read. And my word, I can feel everything he says here throughout the album. There is a desperation, a crying out, almost a begging for some relief in the opening track and throughout the album. And this is what I mean when I mentioned earlier that there was almost a disturbing feeling from the album, but it’s not disturbing in a bad way, but rather one that kind of forces you to understand and feel just how much depth and emotion is put into this collection of songs. It makes you feel. It holds you down and makes you feel it, but it’s not something you want to fight. It’s something you want to give in to; you desperately want to understand.
Falling Helplessly in a Dream features one of my personal favourite Brisbane Metal vocalists, Simon Russell-White of Groove Metallers, Massic. This is not the first time I have heard Ctorh and Simon team up to deliver some brutal vocals. The pair have a friendship that is known to anyone who knows either vocalist. The guys have a musical side project to their bands, in the SCHEMA Collective. SCHEMA is an alliance of musicians and artists from Brisbane, Australia that have united to support each other, the live music scene, and their community. They have a special focus on underground bands/artists which don’t fit the scene status quo. And I am all for that, there is SO much amazing music out there that needs to be given a platform so that it can be heard. My support and appreciation for SCHEMA is strong. This song is given depth from the team up of vocalists and the clear connection the two men have both in sharing vocals and in morals and beliefs in relation to music and more. In this track, Ctorh hits some high pitched scream notes that remind me very much of Matt Young from King Parrot and every now and then throughout the album, I hear elements of that style of Metal vocal from Ctorh. Hence the earlier reference to hearing elements of King Parrot in this album, though the musical style is quite different.
Immerse is a song I want to do just that with; Immerse myself in it. Ctorh describes this song in the album notes: “Immerse invites you to be yourself when you are at a show, to let the music be your guide and to immerse yourself into the moment. …” And this is something I love about being at a live show, that feeling of being able to really just be yourself and relax into the music. Being able to let go of the week’s troubles or worries and just be in that moment, band on stage, friends by your side, the bass line pumping, thumping and vibrating in your chest. It’s like nothing else. The guys have their (sold out) album launch show coming up and I can’t wait to hear them play this and do exactly what the song is about.
When Words Mean Nothing is one of my favourite tracks from the album. This one hits me hard. I love the way it starts with the focus on the riff and the heavy, vibrating bass line. When I close my eyes I can see the thick bass string vibrating at every touch. When Ctorh screams “words are weapons…” that resonates with me. As a child whose father was in the Army, it meant we moved around a lot, every two of three years, we would pack up our lives and move to another state. It was both wonderful and awful all at once. And it is where my anxiety that I live with to this day, started. For me, this song makes me think of the words that were aggressively and hurtfully spat at me by other kids who bullied me for being ‘the new girl’ and ‘the weird one’. Words were used as weapons against me then and they hurt like hell. They stay with me to this day, and while I have grown and let it go to some extent, sometimes damage is done that you just can’t quite shake. Words are powerful. Though I realize this song is not specifically about my experience, that is what my mind immediately relates it to. Music can mean many different things to different people. A quote from one of my all time favourite musicians sums it up nicely: “That’s one of the great things about music. You can sing a song to 85,000 people and they’ll sing it back for 85,000 different reasons.” – Quote Dave Grohl. This song also features some vocals from bassist Ryan and Chris from Kold Creature/Pulpitation Studios added his vocals to the line “I’ll see you in hell”.
Against All Odds started as some hardcore beatdown riffs from guitarist, Tom. Ctorh says it took him “a while to come up with the right concept for this dynamic song…” And what he decided upon is perfection. The angst and raw energy of this song both through the music, lyrics and vocals is melded into a track that sits solid and unrelenting. Drummer Jesse lends his vocals to this track. Jesse is also known as the frontman for Brisbane’s Sludge Prog three piece, Regular Gonzales and his more brutal vocal in this song is really something else. I personally also like to refer to Jesse as the ‘Brisbane Metal Meme Master’ – if you don’t follow Regular Gonzales on their socials, you really should. Not just for their awesome music, but for the memes, the gloriously funny memes. The lyrics to this song, as with all Adriatic songs are brilliant. As a writer, and as someone who spent all her youth, teen years and even now, penning lyrics and poetry, I have a real soft spot for well written, meaningful lyrics across all genres.
“Against all odds: fight! There is a ritual of holding nothing residual, of taking everything literal. There is a fire inside, we’ve got nothing to prove and nothing to hide. There is a storm against us, a sea of pure disgust, no one ever to trust. But us! A smoking gun in the scene, heads will be rolling it seems we’ve got the whole world to clean…”
Poison me (I) begins with a mixture of spoken word from a preacher and a news reporter. They speak over each other, almost like a battle of sorts. This song touches on sexual abuse and is therefore quite a heavy and upsetting topic. There is a sadness in this song from the very beginning. Not just because of the topic, but the music itself has a sadness. This song doesn’t just make me sad though, it rears up an inner anger and extreme frustration. The song does the same thing, there is a progression of emotions as it moves into Poison me (II) you feel and hear the anger rise. Ctorh comments in the album notes: ”I felt compelled to keep extending the intro – I felt compelled to keep singing about this painful topic, so the intro became a song in itself. I needed to express my fury and despair of the lyrics in a five layer vocal harmony. I cannot begin to describe my disgust with organised religion…”
Unbroken begins with a hard hitting low tuned guitar and an aggressive vocal. This song feels like pure anger. And pure rebellion. This song is also really special as Ctorh’s son Sami lends his vocals to this one. A song about children’s amazing spirit and sense of freedom, and despite being told what to say and what not to say, what to think and what not to think, children will always have that sense of innocence, freedom and that inner ‘knowing’ of what is really right and what is most definitely wrong.
Delusion features a very special guest vocalist also. Dwid Hellion of experimental Metallers, INTEGRITY, known for being one of the most incendiary and influential bands in underground and modern Metal history. This song is without a doubt, for me, the darkest, heaviest track on the album, the guttural vocals, the torturous screams and the deep dark sounds of the guitars, bass and drums all churned together and poured out into a song darker than midnight with no moon or stars.
And now the closing track. Koreni (II) which again features the hauntingly beautiful vocals of Reni Bojilov alongside Ctorh’s. Again, I feel the need to say that I am so incredibly glad Reni agreed to lend her voice to this album on the two tracks she features on. Though her vocals are only in two songs and only fairly brief, It really gives so much to the entire album. This last track is beautifully aggressive and passionate. Ctorh says: “The lyrics to this song are a loose translation of the classic Bulgarian song from the intro. The topic is even more potent as these words are written during the lockdown for the first pandemic of our generation conquering the world with a grip of fear and loss of all human freedom – Covid-19.”
I commend all the members of Adriatic on this release, this album shows how talented each member really is. It was recorded at Pulpitation Studios, mixed and mastered at Better Tone Studios. The incredible artwork was done by the multi talented Ivan Shopov.
Details for their sold out album launch show HERE