Review: Chur – Four-Faced

Chur has already been around for a while. Based in Kiev, Ukraine this one-man band was formed in 2005 by multi-instrumentalist and, obviously, sole member Yevhen Kucherov. Chur is the Slavic God of boundaries and the band name is a certain clue as to the type of music we’re dealing with here: folk metal with a distinct Slavic vibe to it. Being a one-man band didn’t stop Yevhen from producing a relative truckload of releases since Chur came into existence. The list of releases contains eleven titles, most of which are either a split, an EP or a single, but there’s also three full-length albums on this extensive list. Up until last October that is, because that month he expanded that list even more with another full-length, the subject of this review. It’s called Four-Faced and contains eleven songs, including a bonus track, together spanning over an hour. As to be expected the lyrical themes are pagan mythology and ancient history.

The hour of pagan folk kicks off with Goddess and the vibe that its rather ominous intro summons remains in the background for the entire song, although the folk vibe definitely gets the upper hand as the song progresses. Yevhen is clearly not planning to save the best for last as he immediately displays he has quite some tricks up his sleeves where it comes to the use of different instruments. He has a lot of instruments at his disposal and does not hesitate to use a variety of them in this first song which he combines with folky vocals, showing a little something what he is capable of. His vocals are multi-layered at times, but remain more or less clean with a rough edge here and there, only remotely resembling grunts, which is actually quite fitting to the tunes. This tendency is continued in the second song, title song Four-Faced, but after that the atmosphere seems to brighten a bit, the dark edges in both music and vocals disappear, emphasizing the folky aspect even more.

This starts with Дике поле (Wild Steppe), in which Yevhen sings in his native tongue rather than in English, and is continued in the majority of the rest of this release. Though capable of singing at a high level in both English as Ukrainian, Yevhen sounds subtly yet unmistakably different in either of the two. His English singing sounds more technical, a little more forced if you will, most likely due to it not being his native language, where his Ukrainian sounds more natural, fluent. Both variations have their individual charm, but even mixing them in one song is very appealing to the ear as is audible in River. The vocals however, seem to be at service of the music, the tunes seem to play the main role. There’s much to discover here, as the songs are filled with a wide variety of individual, instrumental pieces carefully assembled into an organic whole creating an identity of its own for each individual song. This is work by a man who clearly knows what he is after and, equally important, how to execute it.

All in all this is a more than pleasant release, one that will give many, but especially folk fans, countless spins worth of enjoyment. Though in essence not overly varied, the innumerable variations in use of instruments combined with the complex, rather loose composition of the songs guarantees them to remain exciting all the way. In my opinion neither of the songs stands out above the others, they all are carefully thought-out, composed and executed and as such a pleasure to the ears. Apart from that, considering this is a one-man-job, Yevhen only deserves respect for being capable of producing such great songs. If there’s anything I might want to see, or rather hear, improved it would be the production, because that is rather flat and thin. I for one am definitely curious to hear what adding a bit more depth and intensity would do to the overall experience. Regardless this minor point of criticism Four-Faced is well worth your undivided attention.

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