FinnrThree years have passed since this enigmatic Canadian trio released their sublime debut opus ‘Wanderlust’ and, with winter closing in, the timing feels perfect for them to unveil this, their sophomore opus. And what a wonderful, wintry record it is too.

With so many acts within the post-black metal scene diversifying their sound, moving ever further away from metal or treading water, it is refreshing to note that Finnr’s Cane resolutely stick to the sound that they defined so effectively on their first album. The guitars of frontman The Bard remain the focal point of the music, that rich, enveloping distortion with just the right level of fizz describing intricate and melodic patterns, replete with subliminal suggestions of melancholy and reflection. The Peasant meanwhile continues to beat the drums with an almost primal sense of power, surging with fury when required yet always anchored to an undercurrent of weighty despond.

The final point of the triangle are The Slave’s multi-instrumental embellishments with cello, and keyboard – subtle soundscapes and melodic counterpoints that serve to add a real a depth to the songs presented. Indeed, this is one of the developments from 2010s ‘Wanderlust’ – the contributions of The Slave are a little more prominent here, taking the lead on occasions such as ‘This Old Oak’ whilst the sonorous tones of the cello lend a sense of foreboding to the songs, adding a deep timbre beneath the searing guitar work.

It is the vocals of The Bard that really highlight the steps forward taken by the band however. ‘Wanderlust’ was almost an instrumental album so (intentionally) buried and spectral were the vocals  – here, they are moved further forward in the mix thus adding further texture to the soundscape. The clean vocals are as hypnotic and mantric as ever before, yet the addition of desperate black metal rasps on ‘Gallery of Sun and Stars’ and ‘A Great Storm’ are not unwelcome.

What this does serve to highlight are previously-noted similarities to the ever-present Godfathers of this form of neofolk-post-black metal, Agalloch – both the clean AND harsh vocals bear a striking resemblance to John Haughm’s distinctive tones. Coupled with a few occasions when they veer a little too close to musical homage for comfort (moments on ‘A Promise in Bare Branches’ for example) and it’s clear that Finnr’s Cane perhaps need to resolve to step completely out of Agalloch’s shadow on the next release.

Nevertheless, these are minor gripes. The Candadians have quietly and unfussily put out another engrossing album of cold, spiritual, arboreal metal. Big plaudits have been given to countrymen Sombre Forets and Gris recently who plough a similar furrow but for me, Finnr’s Cane are the top of the Canadian post-black metal tree – there’s just something truly captivating about the interplay between the three members that combines to weave something spellbinding. With concisely arranged songs (nothing here outstays its welcome, every track is under 7 minutes) and a palpable sense of autumn permeating throughout the record’s duration, ‘A Portrait Painted by the Sun’ is another impressive piece of work.

(8/10 Frank Allain)