Released: 2016, Agonia Records
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
Root is one of those ultra Kvlt bands from back in the day that you may have heard of, but chances are you haven’t actually heard. Along with the likes of Master’s Hammer, Samael, Mortuary Drape, and Rotting Christ, Root were one of the earliest non-Scandinavian black metal bands to emerge from the scene in the 80’s, with vocalist Big Boss going so far as to found the first Czech branch of the Church of Satan. Over the course of several albums, Root would evolve their sound from traditional Bathory worship towards a more refined brand of self-described “dark metal”, which one could infer to sound like black metal with a nightlight on.
Their latest release, Kärgeräs – RETURN FROM OBLIVION is a concept album and continuation of the story told on 1996’s Kärgeräs, a sonic turning point for the band and fan favorite. The gist of the story relates to an ancient tribe of pre-human warriors in the fictional land of Kärgeräs, some bad decisions and a lot of regret. None of that really matters though, as the 10 new tracks are enjoyable enough on their own and don’t require a dungeon master’s guide to navigate the story arc. Root’s trademark sound has always been Big Boss’ operatic, clean sung vocals, which sound more over the top than ever (think of a lower range King Diamond) and is pretty impressive for a 64 year old man. There are times where Boss’ attempts at dramatic enunciation clashes with an accent that’s gotten heavier with age. "Osculum Infame" has every intention of sounding menacing, but a lengthy diatribe ends up sounding more like Young Frankenstein's Inspector Kemp than a servant of darkness.
The tunes stick to a play-it-safe brand of European goth metal that lives somewhere between Moonspell and Dimmu Borgir, but there’s a bunch of good stuff weighted towards the latter half of the disc. “Black Iris” has an epic, Behemoth type thing going on, whereas “New Empire” trades the gloom and doom for some brighter theatrics and some definite 80’s guitar moments. “Moment of Hope” and “Up to the Down” are both acoustic driven and totally effective, while “Do You Think Is It the End?” is the kind of epic anthem that the album is desperately trying to conjure through its duration. Kärgeräs – RETURN FROM OBLIVION isn’t a perfect album by any stretch, but it certainly has its moments and should do plenty to re-introduce Root to a new generation of metalheads. Though it’s a safer record than anything in their catalog pre-2000, it’s still a worthy addition to the band’s legacy.