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Zlye Kukly - Strange Tomorrow CD (album) cover

STRANGE TOMORROW

Zlye Kukly

 

Prog Folk

4.05 | 4 ratings

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ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk Researcher
4 stars The first time I heard Zlye Kukly they struck me as one of those bands that used to be metal and now spend their time crafting nervously ambient music that threatens to erupt in an orgy of power chords, killer riffs and maybe some growling – but then doesn’t. Green Carnation, Opeth, 3rd & the Mortal and the Gathering all come to mind.

But on further analysis that perception turns out to be all wrong. Clearly I’m not the only one who’s made this mistake though, because I’ve seen these guys listed on metal sites, and also seen their music described as ‘moody gothic’ (like there’s any other kind of gothic music). I think this is more because those other bands have moved away from metal than because these guys have moved toward it though. The other reason it took a while to start to appreciate the band’s prog folk leaning is that the music has a timeless quality to it that you won’t find often in western folk music. These guys are mostly Russian, and operate out of Israel so their folk lineage is both more diverse and less rigidly tied to traditional folk music norms then British, Latin or even American folk rock. Instead Zlye Kukly appear to be part of an emerging trend of bands that gracefully blend broadly diverse influences to yield sounds that defy conventional classification and result in the creation of some gorgeous music but some really awkward-sounding genre tags on album archives all over the Web.

The closest comparison I can think of to their sound is possibly the Greek band Will-O-The Wisp, another modern, somewhat esoteric group that nimbly leverages modern rock structures, traditional themes and the occasional cultural instrument to crank out music that can be perceived as moody and mysterious but is altogether as pleasant an experience as donning a freshly air-dried Egyptian-cotton shirt. My only complaint (for lack of a better word) is that the lyrics are all in Russian, and the band provides no translations except for one song.

This is really a compilation by the way, although band leader Fred Adra has released it as the band’s first studio album on a legitimate label (the group has several private label recordings released in Israel as well). The album credits list the various musicians who appeared on those original recordings, with Adra being the one constant across all fifteen tracks.

At times the Adra seems to get a little caught up in the process rather than the music and veers dangerously close to pop territory, such as on “Mad Theater” where the drum tracks appear to be programmed and sound very eighties new-wavish, although the lithe mandolin and pleasant flute keep the song from becoming an anachronism.

Some of the songs appear to have historical religious themes, such as the staid, piano and flute-dominated “He Walks Along the Seashore” as well as “Babylon is Doomed” and “The End of Days”, although again its difficult to say for sure unless you happen to known the Russian language; the English song titles seem to suggest old-school God territory, but I can’t be sure. Elsewhere the band picks up the tempo with trilling percussion, a driving tempo and more modern-sounding arrangements such as with “Lamplighter” and (once again with the piano and flute) “Star Path”. The album consists of fifteen tracks and well over an hour of varied music, so there should be something here for just about anyone.

Overall I found this to be a rather intriguing collection of music from a fairly interesting band. The album made it onto my Blackberry which is high-praise of a sort since the thing only holds about fifty albums or so and there are a number of bands whose entire discographies are permanently etched on the memory card already. Like I said before though, it is a bit difficult for me to either describe or classify the music; a student of music theory could no doubt dissect it into it discreet parts, but where would the fun be in that? And anyone who happens to know Russian will surely find more meaning in the lyrics that most listeners.

So anyway, if you enjoy the music from any of the Will-O-The Wisp albums, Green Carnation’s ‘The Acoustic Verses’, or maybe the Gathering’s ‘Home’ then you should find something to like here. And if you enjoy modern folk rock at all, which these days means embracing all manner of blending of multicultural sounds, then this should definitely appeal to you. For folks like that I will recommend this album enthusiastically. For everyone else I’ll recommend it anyway since this is very good music; it’ll just ask a bit more of you than what you’re probably used to. I’m wavering between three and four stars, but tie goes to the runner in my book so let’s go with four. Enjoy it if you can find it.

peace

ClemofNazareth | 4/5 |

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