Behind every metal album there is a story. Most such stories are unremarkable, usually of little interest except to die-hard fans of the bands, and often providing little insight into the music beyond what you could gather from simply listening. On the other hand, the story of Волчий Источник (Wolf’s Source) and this Russian project’s lone album Ремиссия духа (originally released in 2007) is like no other. It’s a story worth telling before we get to the music of the album, which we’re streaming in full at the end of this article.
In relating this narrative we’re dependent on what we’ve been told through the label (Goatowarex) that is releasing the album on vinyl for the first time on October 6th, and this is how the story goes (qouting from the promotional material):
“Alexander Tantsyrev, nicknamed ‘Dancer,’ was serving an eight-year sentence for murder in the Kamyshlov penal colony. During his stay, he started the black metal project Волчий Источник – or Wolf’s Source, in English – and released an album with the title Ремиссия Духа, or “Remission of Spirit.” Allegedly, Ремиссия Духа is the only black metal album that has been fully recorded in the confines of total imprisonment. Similarly, or so the story goes, Tantsyrev had never heard any black metal during his life as a free man; his only exposure to the genre came during his prison years.
“After ‘Dancer’ was released from prison, Khnuth was formed with the bones of Волчий Источник. With this project, he released three albums and one split before he killed himself in 2011. Most of Khnuth’s albums are rare as hell and impossible to locate. Волчий Источник’s Ремиссия духа was released in somewhat wider quantities, but still within the band’s native Russia; thus, much of the Western world had yet to witness this outsider black metal.”
And now that will change.
As for the music, references are made to “torrential black metal tyranny that is not far from Brazil’s Sovereign or his follow countrymen within the Blazebirth Hall cabal”, or to “Abyssic Hate‘s classic only album”, in other words, “depressive black metal filled with unquenchable self-hatred”, the sounds of “triumph and sorrow waging chaotic war against each other”.
The music is indeed brutally harsh and harrowing, but it is also fascinating — idiosyncratic and surprising. The abrasiveness of its assault will certainly drive some listeners away by the first minute or two of the second track, but if you hang in there you may find yourself falling completely within its bewildering grip, left with an experience you’re not likely to forget any time soon.
“Dancer” wisely chose to begin this album with “Ремиссия духа”. Apart from being a strangely seductive experience in its own right, it’s a hint of other things that will come — apart from the desolating violence that occupies most of the album’s minutes. That opening is a layered mix of ringing guitar tones, both fluid and raking, with a beguiling vibrancy and a folk-like flair. With the sound echoing as if recorded in a giant steel pipe, the motifs cycle over and over, but don’t lose their appeal.
And then comes “Умирающая реальность”, which will test your mettle. It’s an immediate squall of raw, abrasive guitar-storming and rapidly hammering drum beats (and other slashing percussive tones). The attack is chaotic and savage, with equally savage and strident harsh vocals. The riffing morphs as the song proceeds, the distortion not so intense (though it’s pretty fucking intense) as to mask the changes, and with those changes the mood of the music ranges from cyclonic delirium to fiery, blaring defiance, and most dramatically, to gloom-shrouded moaning and wailing misery.
There’s a balalaika-like trill in the opening riff of “Забытая память прошлого” (still brutally distorted of course), and it prefaces another storm of blizzard-like savagery but also re-surfaces in even more frenzied fashion in the midst of the the relentlessly assaulting riff barbarity. There are some bursts of extravagant percussive pounding within the track to keep you on your toes, as well as a surprising mid-song interlude of eerie guitar picking and weird theremin-like vibrations, followed by a mid-paced dose of uber-grim, doom-stricken riffing. But for the most part the song sounds like a giant compacting machine in an auto junkyard going in overdrive, crushing and mangling metal at a red-hot rate under the direction of a howling madman whose crazed exhortations rise above the maelstrom.
It may feel like you’re running a gauntlet by now, but “Марш бесконечности” provides an interlude, a digression made of slow, ringing guitar vibrations whose mood seems introspective but also bright, and which erupts in bursts of volume and fervor.
But as unusual as that diversion is within the context of the album as a whole, it’s short-lived, because “Тень тайна” blasts away its effects in another racing rampage of cacophonous violence, accented by long, caustic, braying guitar reverberations and freakish arpeggios, and of course by those unhinged, bestial vocals. However, there is another unexpected mid-song digression driven by a head-nodding snare-and-cymbal pattern and populated by an array of gleaming piano tones and spritely guitar notes.
This album is never completely predictable, and so “Дорога одиночества” is anchored by a mid-paced and head-nodding rhythm (interrupted by flurries of drum mania), and the mood of the riffing here (which has a Sabbathian resonance, circa Paranoid) is cruel and harrowing, though the arpeggios are the sound of anxiety and febrile tension. It’s an oppressive and unnerving experience, with the vocals sounding perhaps even more frightening than usual (which is saying something). Eventually, the drums begin to hammer at a more accelerated gait, and the leads flicker in a sound that’s something like a mix of tortured madness and hopelessness, before the oppression descends again.
A massively distorted guitar instrumental (“Вечный свидетель”) closes the album in a scraped-raw display of deep melancholy. Well, it’s not entirely an instrumental. The isolated guitar melody is dirge-like in its mood, and the vocals here, which do eventually arrive, are in keeping with that atmosphere. Their sound is somber, almost like reverent Slavic chants, almost like choral singing — but still cracked with pain.
This music may be the product of psychic ruin, or perhaps even physical degradation, but it does seem like a kind of terrible genius at work. Perhaps it functioned as a temporary life-line for its creator. Little did he know that it would endure, but some of us will find ourselves fortunate that it did. If you find yourself as enamored of the album as I’ve become, ordering information will become available via the locations linked below.