Wyrd are probably best known for their very ethereal take on pagan black metal which was exemplified on earlier albums and very much excelled at. Heathen and Huldrafolk and the three albums that followed are pretty much bona fide classics of the genre which many have tried unsuccessfully to emulate. The band’s ability – with Azaghal’s Narqath being the core member and clearly the driving force – to transport to ghostly and uncertain worlds of times past is difficult to match. Those who haven’t followed them closely may have missed the gradual change of direction that came with 2006’s The Ghost Album which shed the dark almost experimental take on pagan black metal and the ultra-distorted guitars that ghostly veneer for something that feels a bit more a bit more earthbound even if the band managed to keep that spiritual and melancholy edge.
But that gradual change has still been paying dividends for the band – even though it’s more of a doom-death sound these days. And with Kammen and Kalivägi, the band still maintained that oddness and uniqueness to their sound. Death of the Sun feels like a bigger lurch into new territory – delivering some decent black metal while also dabbling in what might be best described as a blackened, heavy rock sound that brings its own distinct vibe. Like Wyrd meets Tiamat, maybe. Because the band has also still not lost its pagan metal flavour which is evident from the opening bars of the title track which still nicely sets a promising tone of the album.
And, as ever with Wyrd, they introduce some likeable elements which are well supported here in the highly varied vocals – the usual rasping screams, some dour doomy crooning and the odd blast of something that does sounds like Bruce Dickinson from Eddie’s Allstars (on The Sleepless And The Dead which really does sound like heathen black metal does Iron Maiden).
There are also a black metal whirlwind with The Pale Hours which sounds like it could have been taken off the last Falkenbach album. But there is also a fairly heavy presence of slower, gloomy semi-ballads like Pale Departure, one of the best tracks on the album for me. But the band also throws in some too-safe sounding, numbers like Man of Silent Waters and Inside which don’t really add anything and to me fell a bit flat for me. But I must admit I also miss that near-ambient side to the band that usually drifts through the music and threads through many of the previous works.
The result is that, unlike most Wyrd albums which come together as one experience – even when there are varied tracks and experimentation – this time round it just feels like a collection of tracks. Some of which are ok and some not so ok. I’m tempted to say that this is Wyrd’s weakest album to date. That’s with all the usual caveats that, if this was a new band or a different band, this would probably be a solid and interesting album, but because it’s Wyrd the bar is, unfortunately, pretty high. If you’re new to the band I would take a listen to the older stuff first and work through. If you’re not, then brace yourself for pangs of disappointment.
(7/10 Reverend Darkstanley)