First task is taking out the ancient grimoire of band logos here and looking up the arcane calligraphy to see what we have. Honestly, as far as the cover is concerned here you literally cannot see the woods for the trees, for some reason I am feeling rather chilly though. Right Einsamtod it is then and further knowledge can now be sought. What we have it appears then is a debut album from a duo of Slovakians; Smrtislav who is responsible for all instruments and Nefastvm who deals with the vocals. Their name in case you were looking for further enlightenment means ‘Lonely Death,’ happy stuff then, nope!
One thing that I really noticed on the first three of these five epic length songs is the way they start. To say the drumming introduces things mechanically at an industrial drill velocity would be an understatement. Fast is the way these tracks batten in and you have to wonder if they are going to keep things up for the average ten minute lengths. Well you can hear them constantly battering away like a demented woodpecker but thankfully there is much more depth within these deep dark woods. Firstly it must be said that Nefastvm’ vocals are excellent, full bodied and blooded shrieks and rasps are at the forefront here, venomously getting their barbed message through in demonically proficient excess. The guitar melody is another thing that you are focussed on through numbers such as ‘Freezing End.’ It’s mournful, and suitably repetitive and along with occasional sounds of nature in all its frozen glory highly atmospheric. A lush acoustic break follows on this and the track expands seeing the band developing and not relying on one dimensionality, which is something that would make songs of this length a chore.
The production is thick and at times even harsh allowing the various battling sounds all to be heard and it is far from tinny black metal demo fodder of years gone by. The naturistic flow developed and progressive it is back to the sudden rage as ‘A Vision Of Ancient Sorrow’ jackhammers back in along with a beefy death belch and then some guitar work that has a distinct Americana twang about it. Ha, it almost sounds like a touch of banjo here but the speed of the drums, my god they are on the point of imploding before dropping out and allowing more gentle focus to take over. There is lots to focus on here and the journey you are taken through is involving, enthralling and completely windswept! There is a touch of Fen and Agalloch and even Lonndom amongst the calmer parts here, it certainly has that deep forested pine-scented scent about it all.
As mentioned the fourth track ‘Journey Through A Land Forlorn’ is a bit of a surprise as it takes the form of a piano / keyboard romantic saga, flowing on through the cold craggy land like a babbling brook just starting to thaw and spring with life. It is highly atmospheric and forlorn and sorrowful stuff but engaging with it, spoken words add to the dismal beauty and mystery of it all. Saving the longest track till last ‘Endless Pain (Night’s Fall)’ concludes the cycle mixing up touches of everything heard before. Guitar lines and keyboard drone ebb in and just as you are comfortable listening to the wind howling in the background they drop the walloping drums and feral shrieks right back into it tearing off in a violent bloodthirsty fury again.
In all, this album is an excellent debut, primitive at times and passionate throughout. It hooked me in on the very first listen and has been one of those albums I have had trouble putting down. The caustic shrieks from the vocals and acoustic parts are a complete contrast to each other but the disparate parts gel together fluidly and wonderfully, balancing out a thoughtful and highly atmospheric album for those that yearn of the past and barren vistas bereft of human intervention.
(8/10 Pete Woods)