WaldWaldgeflüster (‘Forest Whispers’ for non-fluent German speakers like myself who were worried about having their err… ‘waldges’ flustered), started out as being the solo black metal project of multi-instrumentalist Winterherz in 2005. This is his third full length album, featuring many guest appearances throughout from members of Panopticon, Austaras and Haive, on mandolin, violin and kantele respectively. From those instruments alone, you can guess this isn’t going to be a monochromatic frosty landscape black metal affair, and you’d be right. This is sublime none-the-less.

To my ears, there are noticeable similarities to early Woods of Ypres in Waldgeflüster’s sound which spring up from time to time (the clear, clean vocals coupled with the harsh rasp and the tangibly warming feeling of the ‘heathen’ black metal), not to mention intense touches of Winterfylleth which crop up again and again through the waspy guitars that weave effortlessly into larger sonic environments, building into a crescendo of multiple epic musical structures. Even echoes of Krallice can be heard in the riffage, and much missed Germans Nagelfar in the intense atmosphere propagated. Having already learned that this project isn’t one to shy away from folky instruments, there is also folksy influence in the bands musical phrasing too, albeit with an ever present harsh and blackened edge thanks to the guitar and vocals in particular. Please be under no pretence that this is some jolly hobbit knees up of an album because of the mention of folk though, as it by no means is. It’s reassuringly dark and weather beaten, yet also bathed in a sparkling vivacity, an earthy strength of its own which wraps around your psyche like ancient vines.

The album as a whole interminably focuses on creating triumphant melodies which burst with vitality, enrapturing with the force of nature behind it.  Imagine forestland as far as the eye can see, laden with trickling streams, birdsong and sunbeams breaking through the breezy canopy, before torrential rainfall begins battering the idyllic scene, bringing inexorable electrical storms of fire and brimstone to cleanse the landscape of all life. Yet two of the many untameable and unpredictable faces of nature captured and distilled into aural form for your listening pleasure. The starkness and simplicity of light and dark, laid bare and combined in musical matrimony.

The three years of song writing since his last album has certainly paid off for Waldgeflüster, as each composition has clearly been given a lot of attention so as to maximise its primal, most natural potential. Nothing is overwrought or overworked; everything is as it should be. Simply put, this is fine work of art which seamlessly renders many differing shades and emotions under one powerful banner of ‘heathen black metal’. This is a stunning album which has truly taken me aback with its depth, and also given me great hope for forthcoming metal releases in 2014. Brilliance.

(9/10 Lars Christiansen)