I first listened to Loss
on a rather uneventful, boring three hour journey up Interstate 95 in Maine. For any of you who have driven the road before, it is not something which is especially interesting, just mile after mile of birch and pines lining the road for as far as your imagination can perceive. In hopes of cutting my trance-like state of mind, I decided to put on a recent acquisition of mine, give it a few spins, and hopefully give it a thoughtful criticism so I could sit here and write this review for all of you guys to read. This recent finding was British black metal band Wodensthrone first full-length LP entitled Loss
. For the remainder of the drive, I was thrust back into this trance-like state, and before I knew what the hell had happened I was pulling off the highway and Loss
had just ended its third spin in my deck.
My thoughts of a thorough and non-biased critique were basically shot, but my thoughts of the album persisted for many hours thereafter. Later that evening, I sat down again to give this the real listen it deserved, and discovered that my opinions about the album had basically been left unchanged. Through the hour and ten minute album, the likes of atmospheric black metal and folk melt together in an almost eerie way. Think of the black metal along the same lines as Wolves In The Throne Room with a synth. Contrary to what you may think, it turns out that, while the guitar riffs are deceivingly familiar, the atmosphere is something else entirely. The production is low-fi enough to get the whole black metal stereotypes out of the way but quality enough in terms of its mixing and mastering that you get the whole picture without having to rewind to hear a specific lyric or riff.
Keyboards accompany virtually every guitar riff on the album, but not in that insulting Dimmu Borgir kind of way where it ruins anything and everything the band writes. They are produced to be in the background almost always, and consist of ringing chords which change frequently enough to be fresh but not so often it becomes a nuisance. Along with the keys come a very intelligent mix of folk interludes and influences which bring up an air of Drudkh in their music. Take, for example, the instrumental track “Pillar Of The Sun”. Flutes, guitars, drums, even a Jew’s harp work together wonderfully to get a non-pretentious and undoubtedly enjoyable piece of instrumental folk with a healthy portion of metal thrown in to let you know that this is indeed the same band, not some jarring turn away from the black metal in order to get in an out-of-place folk instrumental.
Don’t let all this talk of folk fool you though; the black metal can be downright vicious at times, and actually can be described as such during a vast majority of the album. Songs like “Black Moss” bring in harsher vocal variances, while incorporating some crushing chords during a few of the riffs, along with a helping of double bass. This isn’t to say that melody isn’t present either, because a good handful of the riffs contain just that. Accompanied with the extremely solid vocal performance, this can add up to quite a few moments which flirt with being labeled as epic. For instance, during the latter half of “Those That Crush The Roots Of Blood”, the members of Wodensthrone mingle around with melodic riffs and acoustic guitars for a while before the attention is turned back to the blast beats and other, more raw black metal fare.
As a whole piece, Loss
is an enthralling listen which I seemingly cannot get out of my head. It came out of nowhere, a pattern which seems to be defining the year 2009 for black metal as a genre. Many of the best albums of the year thus far have come from some unknown black metal acts, and I can safely place Wodensthrone’s Loss
in the top three albums of the year. It is a musical experience which really gives off a hint of hope that all really isn’t lost with black metal, and that some people out there are willing to do it seriously and do it right. It just takes a bit of hunting, but these musicians are out there to show off what they can do, and with Loss
, these five musicians have shown that all you need is imagination and a hint of inspiration to pull off something great in a genre so stagnant as black metal.