Up until now, I had very little knowledge of the kind of music coming out of Israel, though I am curious about what art can be produced in a deeply religious nation on the edge of constant conflict. A quick Wikipedia search revealed that Israeli music takes influences from all over the world, particularly Russian folk music dating back to the 1930s. This could explain the eventual inception of Zeresh, the dark folk solo project of Tamar Singer. Her debut album Farewell was released in September of 2019, capturing the attention of many in the metal community, first by the ink-black art of the album cover, then by the dark atmospheric sound of her music, in very much the same way how metalheads are drawn to Chelsea Wolfe. Although there’s no guitar distortion or aggressive vocals, it still makes sense that Zeresh would open for black metal bands like Valkyrja and Mgła.
Farewell opens with “Past Existence,” an instrumental track set over harsh noise. Many might react negatively by turning it off immediately, but to someone like me who loves having their earholes filled with static and feedback, it’s bliss. The following tracks “The Harvest Moon” and “The Ways of Death” are a lot more palatable; Singer lightly strums her guitar, accompanied with violins in the background, her haunting voice echoing off the walls of an unseen, sonic cavern. The second instrumental track “Whitening Shade” swells from a low drone to deafening hum, with noise lightly peppered throughout by power electronics artist Michael Zolotov AKA Kadaver. “Invictus” was written with the help of former bandmate Vlad Shusterman of Cruel Wonders(Bucketlist reviewed their album Gentle Doom three years ago).
The lyrical content is surprisingly not pessimistic. The words are poetic and paint a picture of a cold dark night set in the vastness of nature illuminated only by the moon. Singer sings about death and darkness, but in an accepting way, as if she staring into the void, unafraid. It’s all very poetic. The final track “All Perished” is based on a poem by Aleksandr Blok (it’s not the first time the Russian poet has inspired Zeresh; “Halls Grow Darker” off the Sigh for Sigh EP also takes poetry from Blok).
As I was listening to Farewell, I tried to imagine, if this were the soundtrack to a movie, what kind of movie would it be? Most likely a spooky movie, but nothing with jump scares. Most likely, it will be a ghost story, with the protagonist stuck in purgatory, coming to terms with their own death.
Written by Chris Aitkens
*edited by Mike Milito