Review Summary: A nice try, but unfortunately not convincing
The initially authentic wave of Early Norwegian Black Metal transformed rapidly into a tsunami of imitators and epigons, clones and clowns, flooding the metal community with mediocre evil sounding, musically not always satisfying products. Wyrd's album Vargtimmen Pt. 2 - Ominous Insomnia
(2004) is unfortunately no exception to the rule, although I am aware of the fact that a lot of people won't share this view.
Narqath (The Finnish singer/guitar player Tomi Kalliola) established the band in 1998 as one of his innumerable one-man projects. The art work for Part I as well as Part II of 'Vargtimmen' ('Hour of the Wolf') is derived from the gloomy pictorial arsenal of the neo-romantic Norwegian artist Theodor Kittelsen. The cover depicts the personification of the Pest, strolling through the country. This is not the only reference to Narqaths admired model, prototype and rival Burzum. Also artistically the Grand Master of True Norwegian Black Metal directed him into the realms of Tolkien-inspired Pagan, Black, Ambient, Doom en Folk Metal. Although tributary to the first generation of Norwegian onslaught, Wyrd provides a recognizable, distinctive sound, intriguing enough to pay attention to, but on the long run it's too repetitive and uninspired to keep your spirits up. Repetitiveness is in it's own right an artistic device in the hands of talented and conscientious musicians (e.g. Minimal Music or Burzum). Less can be more, but less can also be a bore. The totality of this album is amusing, hides some potential qualities, but lacks a certain direction or stability in my opinion. Maybe Narqath, who was engaged in a number of other projects and bands, was too ambitious or purposeless when he recorded this fourth Wyrd album. His attempts seem clueless, pointless and drown in a sea of unfocused growls, synth arrangements and endlessly repeated riffs. Let's have a look at the songs.
The openening track The Wicker Man
bursts after a prelude of mournful pouring rain into a heavy, ponderous riff, the composition and melody evoking the classic Sabbath song 'Black Sabbath'. This song really shows some potential, Narqath alternates his style between soft whispering and agressive Death Metal style grunts. The application of different instruments (synth, piano), sound samples (rain, crackle of fire) and varying tempos make this song enjoyable. But: the song lasts more than 13 minutes, recycling the same simple melody and through this it loses tension. One dozes off, longing for a little variation...Another feature that hinders an untroubled savoring of this song is the fact that the words are not congruent with the music, the time signature. Some words are artificially stretched or syllables quaintly stressed to fit the melody. Note for instance the words 'mockingly' or 'this is it now', these passages sound unnatural, forced. But still 'The Wicker Man' is a decent song with it's moments of convincing, poetic and violent intensity. The other good song on this album is Cold, Son of the Wind
. This doomy, slow paced song starts off with clean guitar arpeggios and whispered lyrics celebrating the poetic magnificence of winter's desertion. Narqath's restrained dark, throaty voice matches the cold, almost inert, aloof character of the song and is accompanied by a beautiful (repetitive) synth melody.
But then a certain weakness and inconsistency in song writing set in and the remainder of the songs become unbalanced, seemingly uninspired, eerie, culminating in rather boring and annoying tracks. The Pale and the Dead
consists in a ferocious song with typical Black Metal blast beats and raucous screaming. But the weird melodic character of the song seems not to stroke with it's primitive, malevolent intention. The atmosphere is not frightening, freezing or intense (compare e.g. Burzum or Ved Buens Ende) and the continuous high speed drumming causes irritation. Ghost of Winter
is yet another example of a strange, incongruous song, built around an almost 'happy' melody guided by an overtly 'evil' hoarse growling style.
Analyzing all the other songs in detail is needless, it's sufficient to mention the instrumental interlude Redemption
(curious resumption of 'The Wicker Man' theme), the misanthropic Ominous Insomnia
, which is directed against the hypocrisy in the world, but musically this song is quite lousy and...(I am repeating myself): repetitive. Deception
closes the album with haunting synth harmonies, and you can scent the grandiose, Wagnerian aspirations of Narqath, trying to create a great funeral march, but alas! After this monotonous synthphony
(home made neologism for symphony composed with synthesizer) only the sound of wind and rain remains, leaving the listener with a feeling of loss and discontent...
If you are into misanthropic, melodic Black Metal and you do not make great demands concerning authenticity, variety or inspiration, this album possibly can offer you someting. But if you require more from an artist, if you want to be surprised, haunted, challenged, shaken...I am afraid 'Vargtimmen Pt. II', judged from mere artistic and musical point of view, will be a disappointing experience. In the infinite range of Black Metal bands that showed up in the wake of the Early Norwegian movement there are more successful examples to be found.
Recommended although: The Wicker Man, The Pale and the Dead.