(Andy Synn reviews the new album by the Belgian band Wiegedood.)
As everyone knows by now, the best Black Metal these days comes from Iceland.
Oh, and Germany too.
Ok, fine, yes, and America. And Poland. And obviously Norway is still up there…
Look, what I’m trying to say is that these days it seems like killer Black Metal bands are cropping up all over the map, and Belgium is no exception.
Photo by Stefan Temmerman
Of course Wiegedood are by no means the biggest or most well-known Black Metal band from Belgium (an honour which would most likely go to the mighty Enthroned), but they’re definitely one of the best, and their debut, De Doden Hebben Het Goed (which I reviewed myself a couple of months after its release), was one of the highlights of 2015.
Interestingly enough however, although De Doden Hebben Het Goed II is, in name at least, presented as a direct sequel to the band’s first album, the three-piece have – for better or for worse – largely avoided the temptation to simply reproduce their previous effort wholesale.
This is especially apparent in the much more overt influence of Second Wave Black Metal this time around, particularly during belligerent opener “Ontzielling” and savage closer “Smeekbede”, which finds the band worshipping avidly at the altars of both Gorgoroth and Inquisition, with a much heavier emphasis on aggression over atmosphere.
It’s not as if the band have pulled a complete about-face of course. The band’s first album was itself a stunningly aggressive piece of work after all, and there are definitely moments during both “Ontzielling” and “Smeekbede” which positively drip with the same sort of despairing atmosphere which characterised their debut.
But the bits and pieces of more traditional Black Metal guitar work found on these tracks – from chunkier, choppier rhythms in the style of Infernus, to desolate, disharmonic chords straight from the Dagon school of anti-cosmic evil – definitely serve to bring Wiegedood more into line with the more orthodox style(s) of their predecessors.
I understand that this might be a deal-breaker for some. It’s certainly not the most original sound in the world, that’s for sure. But the Belgians do still put their own spin on things, and deliver every rampant riff, bristling blastbeat, and venomous vocal volley with a truly ferocious level of passion and conviction.
The middle-two songs, the blazing “Cataract” and the moody slow-burn of “De doden hebben het goed II”, hew much closer to the sound established by the band on their first album, however, which makes for an interesting dichotomy. Do we criticise the band for sticking to their own sound? Or celebrate them for trying to evolve, even if that evolution takes them closer towards a sound that’s already quite familiar?
Wiegedood don’t really provide any easy answers to these questions here, and don’t seem inclined to do so in general. But what they do provide us is a furious barrage of unrelenting, uncompromising Black Metal, loaded for bear with a plethora of scything riffs, scorching hooks, and scalding vocals.
And, really, isn’t that what truly matters?
I’ll admit, in closing, that De Doden Hebben Het Goed II hasn’t grabbed me quite as much as its predecessor did.
In fact, when I first heard this album, I wasn’t all that sure about it, as it felt a lot more in thrall to its influences than their debut, which seemed to me to be a much more distinctive and forthright statement of intent by a band clearly out to make their own mark on the Black Metal world.
But, over time, I’ve come to a simple realisation. There’s nothing calculated about this album. Nothing premeditated or over-analysed. No concerns for trends, or cliques, or clichés.
It’s an album written on instinct and by impulse, with no greater goal than simple catharsis in all its ugly, unseemly glory.
And while it may not be the most original-sounding album in the world, there’s something undeniably and inescapably primal about it all the same, which makes it well worth checking out when you get the chance.