Chontaraz - Rondamauh - (8.5/10)
Published on March 25, 2017
Some bands seem to fall out of the sky and appear without much of a warning or any other band connections. Enter Norwegian Chontaraz and their mysteriously titled debut album Rondamauh. The info sheet confidently announces it as “Chontaraz is inspired by the aggression of Dimmu Borgir, the compelling elements of Rammstein and the epic elements of Sabaton.” What seems like name dropping to create a hype around a new band nobody had ever heard of, well, it is, because neither of these three bands shine through as inspiration for the songs here, but that is not something to be held against the band.
Now that being out of the way, Rondamauh is an oddly endearing album despite uniting elements from genres that usually stay away from each other. Epic metal meets modern riffing, gruff vocals go hand in hand with excellent cleans and a heavy, dark atmosphere is accentuated by some great melodies, all of this often found in the same song. This surely has a lot of potential to turn into a disjointed mess, but Chontaraz (both fronter and band alike) manage to channel all of these elements into very dynamic, powerful and cohesive songs that instead of alienating everybody under the earth actually have the power to appeal to the different fan camps and ultimately has the potential to see some sizeable success.
Named after singer Chontaraz, it is obvious that the gentleman is kind of important to the band’s sound and he is like a chameleon, switching from gruff(ish) vocals to his excellent clean voice (that always retains a certain grit, though), leaving his very distinct stamp on the songs. The songs are tight, played with precision and urgency and the style mix really lends itself to the post-apocalyptic lyrical content, which even includes some original language of their own (“Rondamauh” and “Rhind Em Naak”). And opener “Eyrusalem” does its best to send the listener onto the wrong path, because with its modern guitarwork, dark atmosphere and mostly snarly vocal performance, one would never expect these melodic gemstones that are hidden amidst the darkness.
At times the intense and atmospheric mix of both music and vocal styles is somewhat reminiscent of the first Dimension F3H album, if anybody even remembers them, with sweeping dynamics pushing the songs forward and creating a dark maelstrom of an album. The choruses of “Shadowfall”, “Rondamauh”, “Plebeians” “Rhind Em Naak” or “Lycarion” are the bread and butter of Rondamauh, immediately nesting in the grey matter of the brain, but there is more to it than just the choruses, obviously. The one track that sticks out a bit like a sore thumb is “Deciphering the Code”, which is electronic, dark and haunting, but somehow still works within the album context.
Rondamauh has turned out to be quite the surprise in the Mighty Music roster, being able to unite modern and traditional in a fairly unusual way. It has all the potential to hit a nerve among the general metal public and garner a wider fanbase, whichever way it will go, Chontaraz’ debut is definitely one of the strongest of the year so far!