There is a home I live alone
The storming waters in my pond
Unbeaten tracks and endless road
Since the creation of the world
And I don’t pine for if I die
And I don’t pine for if I lie
No way to see the crown of skies
Because that fire in my eyes
– Gods Tower, Twilight Sun
Gods Tower‘s brand of genuine pagan heavy metal can be enjoyed by anyone with a taste for the undying epic, but it must hold especial allure for metal fans in countries that have a rich tradition of ritual liturgy. Festival days dawn and people wake up to greet the rising sun; they enter bath and anoint their bodies with sandalwood paste, turmeric, oil, and other pleasant unguents in an act of cleansing. The men of the house step out with dripping bodies, and walk over to where a small wild melon might be placed inside a ring of chalk or flour. There they crush it under their right toe and smear the burst, bitter seed on their foreheads as a metaphor for the slaying of evil. New clothes are worn, hymns resonate, bells ring, and through it all is carried an atmosphere of rejuvenated optimism.
It is worth wondering whether it is only a natural progression for a thinking, observing human being to become more traditional with age, or to at least develop a healthy respect for mores of old. The above scene holds great fascination as a child but then young adulthood happens and with it comes the casual, unthinking dismissal of all that is hoary of age and held in regard by elders. Most people stay in this phase for the rest of their lives, bogged down with responsibilities and commitments, unwilling to introspect and crack open the calcified shells of their personal dogmas.
With time and age, however, it should become apparent that these rituals contain more meaning than mere superstition or supernatural connotations. Sure, for the simpler masses, they might be little more than a means to wish fulfillment, but part of the reason they were designed in the first place was to foster a sense of community, of culture, and of pride in your identity as a distinct group of people. Maybe through an eye on posterity, maybe to counter oppressing outsiders prevalent at the time, but their unsaid goal was to bring people together in sacred congregation and homage to the land of their birth. Blood carries memories of this soil, and this soil makes us much of who we are today.
I know my native mystery
My mystery’s my fate to fly up
My fate to fly up liberty
My liberty’s my ways in sky
Why call me back from Heaven?
– Gods Tower, I am the raven
It is not possible to not be moved by such feelings on hearing the under-appreciated Gods Tower from Belarus. Non-classical vocals preside over the first two recordings by this band, supplying great passion and awkwardly poetic lyrical nuance to music that is predominantly doom-oriented on debut The Eerie but attains a strikingly well-rounded, melodically evolved character on The Turns. Using genre tropes perfected through its history, from the wrecking ball weight of Black Sabbath to the psychedelia of Uriah Heep, Gods Tower create a genuinely authentic strain of personal heavy metal. Songs take as much time as is needed to build on a basic melodic premise; this founding stone then keeps getting revisited at various times during the song in the tradition of classic heavy metal. Parts are many and of intense melodic value, yet are sewn together with consummate expertise to the extent that even the band’s patently individual quirks have a way of working their way into the greater vision.
The Turns is not a depressing album, but neither is it a saccharine, viscous mess like much of what passes for folk metal. It is an unhurried album; even in its faster parts, there is a feeling of laid-back confidence that can only be the result of a sure-footed conviction of belief. Above all, it is the steady but glorious emission of a noble idea that finds its origin in the smallest germ, enlarging in ambition if nurtured with honesty. This album should have been heralded as a classic of late 90s heavy metal and for its now-dead songwriter to have known it acclaimed as such during his lifetime. It isn’t too late to start even now.