Review Summary: A death metal band moves to Pink Floyd land and ends up somewhere between heaven and hell.
The opening notes of this album make you feel like you're in some tranquil rainforest. Only improved by the album cover, where bees seem to spin like mad, carrying honey left and right, and as the song veers into cricket noises and an acoustic melody enters the ethereal madness, you start to wonder what mad world this album actually belongs to. Is this real? Did someone tape this on holiday in Brazil? But why is this band from Sweden? And in the split half minute of wonder that that first intro track lasts, the answer greets you when Whatever That Hurts enters, as suddenly the peace gives way to booming crushing riffs and oppressive melodies.
And then, all hell breaks loose. For a moment, the vocals, an astonishing death metal-style roar, plunge in, but the riffs are slow and crushing rather than fast, and as soon as the madness ends, the vocals turn to a hoarse whisper, and gentle guitars take over again. But this time they drown. This time, the thunderstorm feels like it's imminent. Slowly raindrops fall to its tribal beat. Even the lyrics, which seem to deal with drugs and hallucinogenics ("psilocybe tea") fade in and out of the song, weaving a vague sense of existence throughout this strange, mystifying world.
As soon as this madness ends, another stroke enters in the form of "The Ar". As the band transitions from psychedelia to more metallic booming riffs, and female vocals croon like sirens singing to the land, it becomes clear that this album, despite being very real when you first popped the CD into the player, does take you somewhere else. The songs seem to have a sort of continuous flow, as if there were no boundaries between songs; but yet, the album does have ten tracks. At times the band recalls the best moments of Pink Floyd, channelling their 60s sense of ethereal soundscapes, and at other times they seem contemporarily influenced, as if the spirit of their young (and at that time unknown) compatriots Opeth was flowing through their very essence.
Even in the moments where all seems ubiquitously mellow, as in "Do You Dream of Me?", guitars jangling like tribal instruments and vocals whispering like endless breezes through warm and sweaty forests, as if you were caught in the moist heat of summer, a sort of immense oppression still besets you. It seems like the album is a quiet euphemism for nature; imitating its inimitable noises, displaying the occasional flashes of peaceful tranquility, but when Gaia rears its head, we return to the vicious instable cycles of the world, as were the feedback loop between silence and noise an endless one. It does feel like wild honey; it is true and pure, wild, but it still tastes sweet on your tongue when you reach out to obtain it; no oppression feels satanic or frightening, it all feels natural and tangible; like pain you might endure on a hike through nature, or the warmth you may endure spending the summer holidays. There is no triumphant sense of despair here, no all-encompassing bleakness; merely the simultaneous sadness and joy of knowing nature is a true, real, entity, and that it hurts as well as it brings happiness.
The moment "A Pocket Size Sun" stops playing, your dream of psilocybe teas, Gaia, and a kaleidoscopic palette of nature ends. You wonder if you've really taken so much LSD that you felt all this. You wonder if the earth still swam before your eyes when that last note ended. But then you realise that the wildhoney you took and ate from the bees, that Tiamat set on earth, symbolises that music is a very good drug when it works; this album is a very good drug when it works. At times its psychedelic, obscure, tumbling nature seems very surreal when listening from a distance, like it's almost funny to wonder "who thought up this idiotic plan to have crickets sing an opening song?", but when you spend time with it, the revelation is that it does envelop you, and your mind, into its world. Like nature is not perfect, this album is not perfect; this album is not a dazzling display of skill, like a perfectly crystalline diamond. But it revels in its human weaknesses; it juxtaposes the primal soul of metal and the complex, beguiling essence of 70s psychedelic and progressive rock, in a way that no other band could ever achieve at this time. Is that enough to take the drug and swallow the Wildhoney pill? Maybe not, as we are not all drug-takers, but the ones that decide to take the journey are up for an exhilarating one indeed. I suppose their addiction will be justified.