The Russian metal scene is not one that I've spent a tremendous amount of time exploring, but it seems to me that Moscow's Gardarika is certainly among the country's more unique exports. On their second full-length album, 2012's Chthonica, the band explores a progressive style of thrash metal that sounds unique even on an international scope. Resting somewhere between Voivod and Fates Warning, the music of Gardarika has plenty of fast thrash riffs, but also throws a surprising amount of melodic hooks and complex rhythmic phrasing into the mix.
As such, Chthonica should have no trouble appealing to thrash fans craving something a bit more intricate than usual (or prog metal fans looking for something on the heavier end of the spectrum), although I wouldn't quite call this a flawless album. For one, the thickly accented and unique vocal style of Alex Izgarny is a bit of an acquired taste, and his voice doesn't impress me very much - although I've spoken with folks that find his delivery beneficial to the music, I don't think his voice has the level of dynamics that the compositions call for. The songs can also be challenging to distinguish from each other without numerous repeat listens, which is pretty substantial when we're talking about an album with as much rhythmic variation as this one.
Still, Chthonica's high level of musicianship and original stylistic approach makes it worth a listen for fans of progressive thrash metal. Although I think Gardarika hasn't fully hit their stride with this LP, they've put together a strong observation with an impressive attention to detail.
1. Hive Mind (4:30)
2. Chthonica (5:57)
3. The Night and Unbending Intent (8:49)
4. Nevertheless (8:25)
5. They Live (5:13)
6. Sleepwish (6:04)
7. Of Pigs and Men (5:10)
8. My Veiled Kingdom (5:01)