Vardan Between the Fog and Shadows

Vardan Between the Fog and Shadows
There are many things that black metal records are stereotyped to have: songs or album titles about fog, mountains, the cold or other grim imagery, black-and-white album covers featuring a nature scene, an indiscernible but decorative logo. There are also things that black metal records need to work well, such as solid songwriting despite low production quality and grating vocals, hypnotizing riffs that border on melody before descending into madness and elements that set them apart from other releases — unique synth work or interesting lyrical themes.
Vardan's latest release, Between Fog and Shadows, might have all the trappings of the stereotypical black metal album, but it also has all of the right elements to make it stand out and work as a solid release. Vardan is a one-man band, which alone is impressive, but this guy has put out 19 albums since he started making music, and six this year alone.
Between the Fog and Shadows is only three tracks long, and the songs flow into each other with such subtlety that you might not even notice that a new song has started. This is evidence of Vardan's hypnotic quality; in the traditional black metal spirit, there is more emphasis on how the record works as a whole than on each individual song. The first track is self-titled, and sets the record off on a nice, lulled and lilting ride with muted synths and distorted, evil vocals that carries through the rest of the recording. Since it's a bit short, you might even want to set it to repeat to get a nice, repetitive flow going with the record.
This isn't exactly record of the year, but for what it is — Vardan's mind turned into music — it's a pretty fascinating listen. We'll be seeing more from this guy, and if you dig the release, there's already a lot more where this came from. (Moribund)