Back in 2016 Ulvesang created a splash with their northern influenced folk tunes. Their self-titled record was an absolute joy to listen to. The Canadian group takes their influence from the more atmospheric and folkish black metal bands, condensing it into mournful, but clean, clear folk music. This is the same path they still walk on ‘The Hunt’, their latest endeavor.
I was surprised this band was not signed. Although it clearly is not an easy genre to sell, their music was so good and cinematic, that it must be attractive. Luckily, so thought the good people at Nordvis. This album offers the narrative of a hunt, the awareness, effort and also consciousness that is part of the killing for your personal needs. It’s imaginary and powerful, subtle and measured.
A ritual chanting opens the hunt, with ambient sounds taking you to a different place. Tranquil, wavery folk music follows and flows naturally, with mellow sounds and finger-picking guitar play. The drums give a mild bombast to the songs, taking them back to that primitive aspect inherent to the music of Ulvesang. Chanting becomes more mellow and almost Clerical throughout ‘The Dance’, which lacks the urgency the theme suggests up till the point where the guitars become a bit riffier.
One of my favorites is the title track, which meanders and dances in its simple yet beautiful way. The bass line is played with precision and a gentle touch, reminiscent of the galloping run over the wild planes of yesteryear. That is how a song like ‘The Gloom’ really feels like that remniscent moment you experience, while sitting next to a campfire in the gloomy night. When the mists surround you and time fades for just a moment. That is the absolute magic Ulvesang offers.
Label: Bindrune/Nordvis Origin: United States Band: Falls of Rauros
The band FallsofRauros has a lot going for them. Firstly, their name is a Tolkien reference, which always resonates with me. Secondly, their music rates as black/folk metal on various sites (though you can disagree on the terminology, I think it covers their sound well). Also they’re politically charged, citing anarchism as a theme.
This all would not even be necessary, for the Appalachian folk wink in their sound puts them on par with Panopticon and do I love that band. This is the fourth album by the group from Portland in the States, following ‘Believe In No Coming Shore’ from 2014. Artwise, the band takes a move away from their more nature depicting covers with something a bit more fantastic. Also good to have some new material, after all the re-releases ofcourse.
On opener ‘White Granite’, you immediately hear the combination of beautiful melodies, maybe almost a bit of stadium rock, with scorching vocals. The constantly walk the thin line between beauty and grimness, somehow very akin to nature in that sense. This is not a bad thing though, because the band completely in a natural way finds their path through the different sounds and builds layers upon layers of riffs and expressions to create their specific brand of black metal. There’s a densely emotional side to songs like ‘Warm Quiet Centuries of Rains’, something truly soothing.
Album highlight is, I think, the track ‘Arrow & Kiln’. It shows Falls on their more heavy end. More massive and cohesive than the rest of the album and therefor in 12 minutes being the song that exemplifies the album. It contains all the strong sides of the band in one go. Great stuff!
On final track ‘Impermanence Streakt Through Marble’ the band completely lets go of the black metal and trickling folky tunes, acoustic play and shoegazy meanderings lead the song forward. When the music gets some more weight after two minutes, this still feels like a beautiful postrock tune, evoking a certain sadness. Vocals come on a bit later, but for me those were not even needed (though they do give the song some body).
Waldgeflüster translates as the whispering in the forest. The word translates literally as an ancient forest, shaped by nature instead of man. At least when I look at it through Dutch. I might be filling in things here, but there’s something about the music of this German group that seems to evoke the feeling of the ancient forests in their native Bavaria.
So, ‘forest whispers’, a band that has been around since 2005, has released their fourth album titled ‘Ruinen’. The band got in my sights thanks to their collaboration on a split with Panopticon. The music of both acts evokes a strong sense of losing touch with the world and looking to nature for some sort of answers. The lyrics of Winterherz, bandleader of Waldgeflüster, in that way touch me as well:
I am part of your world but I cannot live in the here and now
I want to wander freely through my woods and I shall still carry all of my burden – ‘Weltenwanderer’
It’s in mournful tones that the band speaks of this duality, the world we live in and the world we are drawn towards. Though sometimes the music can be harsh and ragged like the dark tree tops that cast shadows downwards, it’s the melodic passages that are the part of Waldgeflüsters music that really captivate the listener. There’s a moment of freedom in those forest worshiping tones.
In that sense the record becomes quiete accesible, thanks to the many clean vocal parts with clearly articulated lyrics. Violins enrich the sound even further, giving it that particular folkish feeling. The sound of the band is rich, also thanks to a couple of guest musicians. In a way the clean production also reminds you of Equilibrium. Not that they sound so similar, but the feeling of the German bands seems to connect somewhere. The songs are notably long by the way, but that doesn’t mean the sound is stretched out over the minutes. For example, the song ‘Graustofen Novembertage’ takes a few seconds to fully get to speed. It does offer enough variation to keep you listening, but so does the whole album of organic folk black metal.
A particularly beautiful part is the outro to the album, titled ‘Susitaival’. A calm and flowing folk tune, with a nice bass punch. It shows you that foundations of the sound this band has.
And we’re up to number 26 of Sounds of the Underground with Regarde Les Hommes Tomber, Draugurinn, Misþyrming and Gurthang. Check them out!
Regarde Les Hommes Tomber – EXILE Les Acteurs de l’ombre Productions
You only need to start listening to opener ‘L’Exil’ to get captivated by the soaring tremolo guitars and thundering rhythms, that crash like waves unto your eardrums. The Frenchies are back with a fenomenal record, casting a shadow over their self-titled debut, which I discussed in my very first review block. From the sludge/post-hardcore front the band was residing in before, there’s a definite movement here towards the black metal sound. Well, post-blackmetal is what we need to say I suppose.
The clanging cymbals in dischord with the blastbeat and crackling feedback offers a wealthy wall of sound. Connect that to the imposing vocals and sound and the record becomes an intense and bombastic experience. ‘Embrace the Flames’ is for example a full on black assault, with a harrowing guitar riff spiralling through it. There’s so much power to the music of this Nantes band, it’s a shame everyone keeps talking about the new deafheaven.
Misþyrming – Söngvar elds og óreiðu Fallen Empire Records & Terratur Possessions
Icelandic black metal, that surely has something special about it they must feel at the Roadburn office. So these guys are an integral part of the next edition of the festival. This album came out earlier in 2015 and only now I’ve discovered the intense, excruciating sound of a band whose name means something like maltreatment. Neck breaking ferocious guitar riffs are unrelenting in their sonic assault from the first moments of the album onwards.
It’s a tortured affair of eerie feedback, blustering music and howled vocals. There are no breaks on the wheels of Misþyrming when the y star turning. There’s a certain unique sound to the band that is intriguing. An industrial, desolate atmosphere maybe, but also a Darkthrone like punk vibe that brings a rawness to the band. The sound is explosive, erupting from the deeps and therefor truly overwhelming at times. This is always accompanied by a clear link to the oldschool sound.
Draugurinn – Ísavetur Nordvis
‘The Ghost’ in Icelandic, this project is the solo effort of Swedish artist Dísa, previously active in black metal bands Murmurs and Korpblod and currently also working on Turdus Merula. This lady has been making some really amazing stuff and Draugurinn takes it a bit more into the mystical region of aetherial ambient with a shamanistic feeling to it. The story is that of a world covered and obscured by volcanic ash and a drumming that melds together with your heartbeat, captivating the listener completely.
There is something intensely pagan and foreign to the music, it draws you into a natural and soothing environment of ritual and dreams. Soundscapes or eerie howls clash with the rhythmic drums that bring a trance with them. The cover appears like a drawing of Theodor Kittelsen, as popularized by early black metal acts like Burzum, but somehow fits better here. For me, this album awakens a thirst for that spiritual connection to nature, for the harmony I find in the work of Dísa, whose other bands I’ll definitely keep my eye on. PS, for Skyrim fans, now you now where the word Draugr comes from.
Gurthang – I will notserve Immortal Frost Productions
The Polish band has derived their name from Tolkien novels, where the sword Gurthang is wielded by hero Túrin Túrumbar. It’s name means ‘Steel of death’. The band has been around forever and their sound fits in with the Polish style of blackened death you can hear with Behemoth. Cold, stiff tones, majestic sounding and sharp thudding rhythms. The band has been around for a couple of years, but has a prolific catalogue of music already. This may be their best addition as yet.
There’s a cold fury to the sound of Gurthang, a controlled distribution of rage with a sound that in general leans more towards the melodic death metal, but with a much grimmer atmosphere. The Frosty guitar riffs soar over the rumbling drums, which demonstrates how the studio can really affect the sound of an album in this corner of the extreme metal genre. There is a certain lack of dynamics to the record, but it’s in a way like a piece of old fashioned armor: it is sturdy, frightning and cold. Good record, that is exciting enough to give a spin.