WolandThe latest addition to the burgeoning Indie Recordings stable, Woland assail us with something of a bizarre mix-up of sounds on their debut full-length LP ‘Hyperion’. Theirs is a sound that is rooted in black metal, however Woland are unafraid to mix this up with a smattering of ‘post’ and ‘tech’ elements being dropped into the melting pot at various points. This is in perfect keeping with their aesthetics – moody, abstract artwork and a recently-released album teaser video that practically yells ‘urban’ into our faces, this is clearly an opus designed to be taken seriously.

Nonetheless, for all the pounding aggression, spiralling guitars and roared vocals of the opening track ‘Conquer All’, the one word that keeps coming back to me time and again is ‘dancefloor’. The track is underpinned by a serious one-two stomping beat which keeps coming back for more as the album progresses. Couple this with the industrialised ring of the drum sound, it lends a hefty dollop of the goth or rock club to the record.

That’s not necessarily a problem – it’s perhaps a little at odds with a band who claim po-facedly to produce music that ‘relies on a foundation without boundaries and a focussed vision’ but it lends a head-nodding, bouncy appeal to the record. It’s not a million miles away from the sound …And Oceans explored in their ‘A.M.G.O.D.’ days – a touch of the cyber and a touch of the dance club in amongst the metal attack.

Woland can riff it, of that there’s no doubt. ‘Ecstasy and Rapture’ boasts some dizzying death metal fretwork whilst ‘Live Forever’ crashes in with a colossal central hook – strident and melodic, it has ‘Spiritual Black Dimensions’-era Dimmu Borgir written all over it and it’s one of the strongest pieces here.

The neo-classical flamenco soloing that decorates the mid-section of ‘Living Water’ meanwhile also speaks of a real instrumental talent that pulses at the core of the band. The down-tuned gallop of ‘Art of Ascension’ is perhaps a little Arch Enemy for comfort but at the very least, it demonstrates versatile musicianship and a willingness to diversify their soundscape.

At the end of the day though, it is that infectious stomp running throughout the record that really defines it for me,  the aforementioned ‘Ecstasy and Rapture’ opening with the sort of adrenalized beat designed to have the black-clad hordes pogoing like some sort of blackened Rob Zombie gig. I’m not sure it really lends weight to the bands lofty claims of ‘gazing to the future with a Neitzschean vision and welcoming it with open arms’ (after all, it’s a little bit ‘1998 at the Electric Ballroom for me’) but ‘Hyperion’ is an enjoyable record nonetheless, even if it lacks a touch of focus.

(7/10 Frank Allain)