December 2021 Feature Release – The North Edition
So just like that we find that a new month is upon us which of course means that we’ll be nominating a brand new monthly feature release for each clan. This essentially means that we’re asking you to rate, review & discuss our chosen features for no other reason than because we enjoy the process & banter. We’re really looking forward to hearing your thoughts on our chosen releases so don’t be shy.
This month’s feature release for The North has been nominated by Vinny. It's the 2009 debut album from English atmospheric Pagan black metallers Wodensthrone entitled "Loss".
I first encountered six-piece English black metal outfit Wodensthrone's debut album "Loss" shortly after returning to metal back in 2009 & remember finding it to be generally pretty enjoyable on first listen but struggling a little with a few elements. The strong use of keyboards & the implementation of some pretty positive sounding melodies were a little bit at odds with my usual taste in black metal while the drumming isn't very good & those that know me would be well aware of how important good drumming is to my listening experience. Repeat listens would see me warming to the album's qualities significantly though & by the end of my third or fourth listen the grandiose atmospheres were drawing me in nicely. This revisit has thankfully seen me picking up where I left off twelve years ago with nothing much having changed in regard to my overall feelings on the album's merits.
The Pagan black metal tag is perhaps a bit ambitious for this release. Yes, the atmosphere certainly hints at an organic, natural feel but there's not really enough of a folk component to warrant a primary tag in my opinion. The atmospheric black metal tag is sufficient for the purpose as far as I can see with the symphonic element pushing for a minor mention a lot of the time too. "Loss" isn't the most imposing or dark of black metal releases which is part of the reason for my initial hesitations. Light & melody play a major part in Wodensthrone's appeal however that shouldn't necessarily be viewed as such a bad thing. There are a few moments that hint at the sort of positivity usually reserved for blackgaze though & several of the tracks also seem to make a conscious attempt to emulate the epic atmosphere of Viking metal, particularly the strong closer "That Which Is Now Forgotten - 597".
"Loss" is a very consistent release & I wouldn't say that there are any weak tracks included however there also aren't any obvious classics amongst the eight tracks either with most suffering from a minor flaw or two along the way. Overall, I'd suggest that it's a pretty good place to start with Wodensthrone though as I'd be surprised if it disappointed too many fans of the more atmospheric & organic side of black metal. It's been a while since I listened to it but I think I still slightly favour Wodensthrone's 2012 sophomore album "Curse" over this one. There's not a lot in it though as both are high quality black metal records.
For fans of Winterfylleth, Saor & mid-90's Drudkh.
I was intrigued by this month's featured album as it featured atmospheric black metal with a distinct folk flare. Given me and my history with black metal, this should come as no surprise. And Wodensthrone did make some compelling black metal during their time. It feels very spacious with the sprawling tremolo chords in the guitars and solid low end with a more than acceptable bass presence, and percussion that is pummeling when it has to be, but shows quite a bit of restraint and holding off on the double kick pedal and blast beats. The vocals have a unique timbre to them; a little too much treble for my taste and could definitely use some more girth as displayed during the multi-layered vocals mid-way through "Black Moss".
But where I lose this album is in its keys and synths. Many of the choirs and string accompaniment are provided by the synthesizer's and it isn't so much that they fall flat, but rather they just sound so blocky and janky as if they were thrown in as an afterthought, but needed to be heavily pronounced in the mixing to make the overall record feel more folk/pagan. Because of that prominence, it is challenging for me to like this record more than I do.
As a black metal record, the atmospherics are super robust and has a lot of similarities to blackgaze. Because the percussion is not blistering and the tonality is quite pleasant, it would be hard for a "true kvlt" black metal fan to accept this. This is closer to Moonsorrow than Saor. If that sparks your interest, then Loss is a good album. Just don't expect to be blown away like those other names.
It has been a while since a listened through the debut full-length from the now defunct Wodensthrone. The sound borrows more than just a tad from Drudkh to the extent that the opening of album closer That Which Is Now Forgotten – 597 borders on pure worship of the Ukrainians. The atmospheric elements contained within Loss draw a direct line to the first four Drudkh albums and similarly the charging momentum of the Wodensthrone debut matches the same impetus. Now, to have such a comparator is without question something of merit for a band who at the time were in their fourth year of existence. However, when you struggle to be able to stabilise where the influence stops and the genuine motivations of Wodensthrone begin then it is clear I have some challenges here.
With most releases (certainly most debut releases) I am looking for a band’s identity to shine through even if a plethora of influences are obvious at the same time. On Loss, I just do not get any sense of identity overall and the band come off as just combining the best bits of WITTR, Drudkh and then hark to some Winterfylleth to round things off. What I get therefore, whilst being of good quality, just is not that interesting in the grander scheme of things. In the more pagan inspired moments is where I find the greater levels of intrigue if I am honest, and as such I want to enjoy the record more than I do.
Now this is not to say that Loss is without its moments. The thundering fury of Black Moss needs acknowledging and celebrating as it is by far the most powerful and energised track on display here. It is the only track that shows enough individuality of sound to warrant notice above the other far too obviously influenced tracks. Whilst it most certainly does stray into that Drudkh hole that they continually fall into it does still standout as an individual triumph still with an acute level of intensity that is both imposing and welcome at the same time. The tremolo riffs wail on this track and the more basic riff patterns give real life to the passages. In many ways it is the most straight forward track on the album and is one whose structure they perhaps should have embraced a little more throughout the album.
In terms of quality, Wodensthrone knew how to write and play great atmospheric bm (just not necessarily own it at the same time). The level of musicianship was up there with the likes of Fen, Saor, Fuath and even Negura Bungent’s less ambient moments. However, it all just lacked an element of responsibility for the own sound and that in so many ways is an absolute tragedy.