All the first impressions indicate that The Wind, the Trees and the Shadows of the Past
is a standard-but-decent black metal album that you will enjoy for a few listens then lose in the mound of standard-but-decent black metal albums that litter your Itunes library. You’ve got your serene, green, picturesque cover art (clearly a groundbreaking way of concealing the harshness of the music), your typically long title and your typically long track lengths. From the band name, you should be able to tell that this falls in the recent trend of “optimistic” black metal: harsh vocals contrasted with bright, sweeping guitar riffs and a major key tonality. From the song titles, say, The Wind and The Trees, you are probably expecting the band to transport you to some eerie but mystical forest in Scandinavia or something. Now that we’ve got the first impressions and expectancies out of the way, you are probably waiting for the “But this is actually special!” assertion. Well, you’ve got it.
But this is actually special!
It is with delight that I announce that The Wind, the Trees and the Shadows of the Past
is everything that you are expecting it to be but also an unexpected success as the execution is downright brilliant. The most endearing aspect is just how genuinely warm it is; heavily rooted in a folk metal sound, the songs are driven by uplifting lead guitar melodies interspersed with spellbinding acoustic sections. While this has the potential to become routine or predictable, the organic approach to the songwriting allows sections to not transition but rather dissolve into one another. This sustains a momentum that defines every lapse into midtempo territory as natural and logical. It is particularly remarkable that the shrieked vocals, the sole black metal element, do not disturb the serenity that the music develops; rather, they add a layer of melancholy to the dominantly optimistic mood. Their inclusion is seamless rather than jarring; the final song before the outro eliminates them completely, yet the emergence of clean vocals does not come off as ill-fitting. Everything works together to create a distinct atmosphere that is carefully developed and impeccably realized.
Special recognition must be made of the intro and outro; I can’t remember the last time I’ve witnessed such an effective loop tactic on an album. Consisting solely of atmospherics, the beginning and end are connected with such fluidity that the album doesn’t conclude but rather diminishes then blossoms once again in the replay. The Wind, the Trees and the Shadows of the Past
proves that tried-and-tested elements can still coalesce to form an astounding work if the execution is precisely on target.