Roel de Haan : The Ukrainian atmospheric pagan black metal band Zgard are back with their fifth album already entitled ‘Totem’. Predecessor ‘Contemplation’ already represented a significant step up for the band, but ‘Totem’ is by far their best work to date. Zgard combines pagan tinged riffing with a more astral and spacious atmosphere. On ‘Totem’ everything is simply turned a few shades darker compared to Zgard’s earlier works. That means less cliché folk melodies and an altogether more grim mood. The aggressive parts remind me of Mare Cognitum with a whiff of Ukrainian melancholy that Drudkh is most renowned for. Synths are now used more subtle and scarcely which is beneficial to the durability of the music. However, I do wish Zgard would stop with using the flute in its music, even when it occurs only sporadic, it is just too cheesy. However, besides this minor qualm there isn’t much to fault on ‘Totem’ and Zgard has created an engaging atmospheric pagan black metal album with native influences that is sure to please fans of Drudkh, Kroda, Khors and even Mare Cognitum and Negura Bunget.