Hurrah Vaarwel is back and not with just Frozen Ocean but a new project too on this split release. Last time we heard from him here it was with The Prowess Of Dormination at the beginning of 2016 but he has it appears released a couple of compilation albums since then. The very prolific artist is involved in all sorts of musical outfits from the gore grind of Smothered Bowels to the ambient and funeral doom of Goatpsalm who he has re-joined recently and no doubt has a new album on the way soon. One of his collaborators in that particular band is Horth Sick and it is with him that Heather Grave were recently grown. I was not sure what exactly we were going to get from either project here. For a start you never know what you are going to hear from Frozen Ocean and it could be anything from caustic 2nd wave black metal to ambient music about Moomins. I was immediately drawn to the fantastic artwork on this release and the full cover unveils airships floating over dramatic skylines courtesy of Nadya Shcherbakova and really is quite eyewatering. What on earth is Anemomautics too? Well it would seem to be something (unless entirely co-incidental) studied along with geometry and alchemy in a series of books by Ian Whates City Of Dreams And Nightmares. There’s always plenty to unravel with Vaarwel and this seems to be no exception.
It’s Heather Grave up first with 2 numbers and ‘The Hunger Constellation’ is based upon idea stemming back to a meeting of the minds between the two musicians quite some years ago. This led to what they describe as “a sudden project portraying our nostalgia for slow melodic metal of 90’s.” Drums slowly bounce and thick guitar lines unfold along with some rich sounding violin work. Its very atmospheric and suddenly joined by Vaarwel’s low gnarly vocals. He also employs some more whispered parts and clean vocal passages as the track progresses giving us a bit of everything in the process including musically some piano and arrangements that have synthesized futurism and classical elements all moulded into a cohesive whole. This certainly doesn’t provide an immediate fix and needs time to grow over repeated plays. I have to admit I found the clean vocals working best for me here. Brilliantly entitled ‘Satellites Of The Graveyard Orbit’ plucks away at acoustic fretwork before the doom-laden full body of the arrangements join in. There is a somewhat relaxed and laid-back feel to this and a bit of a Gothic chug which corresponds to the growling vocals giving it at times a post-punk Sisters Of Mercy type vibe and at others a more space laden and astral feel in line with its title. There’s plenty going on in these two tracks which certainly are intriguing and make you wonder how and if this collaboration will continue and where it will possibly take us.
Frozen Ocean’s side is purely instrumental with the two fairly lengthy tracks ‘Cities Are Dying In Me’ and ‘Foretokens Are Caught In Seclusion’ running more or less into each other. After a brooding harmonious start guitar sound glistens and glimmers into what is quite easily categorised as post shoegaze in style. Very 90’s in origin but developed as we know into a style expressed in more blackened hues by the likes of Alcest, Deafheaven et al this is comfortable and chilled in motion and style. Best way to absorb is letting it warm you whilst it gently unfolds and discover what dreams it sparks in your imagination. Bass work is thick and meanders away and the production here is (on both bands) as expertly handled as the artwork providing a very complete package all round. There’s some deft guitar soloing on hand too and it is evident that the composer is just letting things flow and very much enjoying where the music is taking him as well as the listener. Despite differing styles, the two outfits work particularly well together and as far as an end mark is concerned there is no splitting them here. This is imaginative work from Russia, full of rich idea and some gorgeous harmonies. I’m sure 2020 will see much more work coming from Vaarwel and those surrounding him and I’m certainly glad he is back.
(7.5/10 Pete Woods)