SHADES OF BLACK (PART 2): WĘDRUJĄCY WIATR, KLANEN, THE HOWLING WIND, SAPIENTIA DIABOLI, DREAD MAW
If you tuned in to Part 1 of this column earlier today you know that I had compiled an absurd amount of music to write about. In Part 1 I cut down the number of advance tracks I wanted to highlight from 9 to 6. That left 4 new albums, 3 new EPs, and 1 new split still on the proverbial table, and a vanishing amount of time to write about any of them today. I made some difficult choices, and am only able to provide short sketches of the ones I picked, but at the end of this post I’ll give you links to the ones I painfully omitted.
WĘDRUJĄCY WIATR (Poland)
Wędrujący Wiatr don’t move in a hurry. Six years have passed since their last album, O turniach, jeziorach i nocnych szlakach, and there was a three-year interval between that one and their debut full-length, Tam, gdzie miesiąc opłakuje świt. Their past music was so strikingly good that we don’t really need constant reminders of the band’s existence, but still, six years is a long time — which made the appearance of a new album last week even more thrilling.
This new one, Zorzysta Staje Oćma, is substantial. It consists of seven tracks consuming well more than an hour of time. It tells a substantial story too, one rooted in “motifs found throughout eastern european folklore and myths”, and comes with a 52-page digibook (also available in a physical edition) which includes all the lyrics and narratives, both in Polish and English, and corresponding paintings done especially for the story. The band urge fans “to delve deep into the story as it unravels along with the accompanying music”.
Even the digital version of the book is a beautiful and engrossing work. So is the musical narrative, which obviously was also prepared with great care and attention to detail. Speckled with audio samples and spoken words, the album does indeed unfold like an epic narrative, moving through episodes that are mystical and haunting, solemn and stately, blazing and blistering, gloriously panoramic, or stricken with deep melancholy.
At different turns, which bring many different tonal and emotional ingredients into play, it’s sublime and spellbinding, turbulent and tormented, perilous and poignant. I could stitch together more alliterative adjectives, because I haven’t come close to exhausting the sensations of this grand musical pageant. But I’ll spare you that, and end by urging you to set aside the time needed to immerse yourself in the album’s sprawling brilliance straight through.
(Thanks to Miloš for making me aware this album had come out.)
Over the course of the two years since its inception, the Virginia-based solo project Klanen has churned out a pair of EPs, a quartet of splits, and one full-length. The most recent release (out at the end of January via Crown and Throne Ltd.) is a compilation named A Rebirth of Night and Spirit. It collects the six tracks from those two EPs (or you might call them demos), which were originally released in 2020.
In these relatively early works (they weren’t made that long ago), Klanen occupied a soundscape on the borderlands of raw black metal and then moved into it more forcefully. In the first three songs there’s actual a searing clarity to the riffing, a ringing brightness to some of the isolated arpeggios (which are mesmerizing), and immense heaving and hammering weight in the low end.
The roaring and screaming vocals are relentlessly scorching, and the mood of the music in the first three songs is usually harrowing. In tremendously penetrating fashion, the songs plumb shattering depths of darkness and despair, often on a towering scale, but do so in immersive fashion, managing to become enthralling as well as intensely distressing.
The second trio of songs has a more raw and tinny sound and is missing the heaviness in the low end, but is still accented with ringing guitar instrumentals, and this time with spooky ambient passages as well. And the music is still harrowing, albeit in a more frenzied and agonized way. Yet despite those changes, the riffing gets its hooks in the head.
Having heard this I now feel stupid for not paying closer attention to Klanen‘s more recent releases. With a beginning such as this, I have very high expectations for what came later.
THE HOWLING WIND (U.S.)
Between Andy Synn and myself we’ve been reviewing the releases of this bi-coastal duo (Ryan Lipynsky and Tim Call) going back to May 2010, when this site was barely six months old. Three years after their last full-length (Shadow Tentacles) they’ve now surprised us with a multi-faceted new EP named Oak.
The music here is often muscular and swaggering, fanged and venomous to be sure (especially in the absolutely incinerating vocals), but also with a kind of primal, carnal force coursing through its veins. By contrast, the band also turn the music in menacing and mysterious directions, bringing in chilling astral panoramas, and they also give in to unnerving frenzies of torment and blanket the senses with sounds of abject suffering and poignant grief.
All of which is to say that a lot happens in these four frightening tracks. They turn many corners without warning, and in doing so they’ll keep you on your toes, rock you back on your heels, and maybe cause you to have to catch your breath.
SAPIENTIA DIABOLI / DREAD MAW (U.S.)
For fans of raw black metal the new split by Sapientia Diaboli and Dread Maw is an uncut gem. Entitled We Were Put On This Earth to Suffer, it comes our way from the Kentucky-based Snow Wolf label.
Sapientia Diaboli‘s “Upon the Hands of Liars” is an overpowering storm of dire and deadly sound. Driven by hyper-blasting drums and fueled by the insanity of shattering screams, the guitars and synths blaze like a celestial inferno, creating visions of cosmic apocalypse. “The Black Shroud” gives you a few seconds to gulp some air, and then the blistering percussion and the eye-popping sonic conflagration in the heavens resumes. Stunning stuff.
Despite the name of Dread Maw‘s “Lucifer, Noctife”, the song made me think of a musical rendering of some ancient demonic myth from Java. It may have something to do with the unusual tones and rhythms of the clattering and crashing percussion, which is cloaked in the abrasion of sinister chords and the corroded sheen of mystical synths. “Asael, The First To Fall” carries that primitive and exotically devilish atmosphere forward. The percussive accents are still riveting, the surrounding audio emanations still nightmarish, and the cacophonous vocals just as hideous as before. The music is somehow seductive, and paradoxically maybe even more frightening than the music of Sapientia Diaboli.
And now here are links to the new albums and EPs I also wanted to write about but couldn’t manage to do:
LUNAR TOMBFIELDS (Album)
UNHOLY VAMPYRIC SLAUGHTER SECT (EP)
Wedrujacy Wiatr are top notch black metal!! Glad they have a new one and already positive it’s AotY material.
Wędrujący Wiatr are the best. It was such an awesome surprise to see the notification of a new album dropping out of nowhere. Could rank as their best album on early returns too. Very, very impressive release.
It is indeed a wonderful surprise here in the early part of the year, and continuing to understand more about both the music and the story will be rewarding as time passes.