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Blatantly Obvious Fact of the Day: I tend to like music that comes from my hometown region! Shocking, I know! But whenever I find myself talking about Midwestern metal, I find it to be thrash metal most of the time. I guess a bit of black metal too, as the legendary Judas Iscariot hails from DeKalb, and the more modern take in Arbor comes from Milwaukee, and I guess there's a lot of death metal too, and there's some great trad metal like High Spirits... okay so I didn't think this sentence through before starting it, but the point is that epic viking metal isn't normally what the scene is known for. And obviously, that is what Madison's so-young-even-the-Greek-wouldn't-fondle-them kids in Warseid provide listeners with.
With Wisconsin being the frozen wasteland devoid of anything other than ice cream and shitty sports teams, it's no surprise the desolate atmosphere comes across so vividly in the band's newest EP, Where Fate Lies Unbound. Despite hearing the particular descriptor tacked on to nearly every Scandinavian black metal band to ever exist, it's rare I hear music and think to myself "Yup, this sounds like winter", so Warseid earns points straight off the bat for getting something as abstract as a season synethesially put to music. Basically all of the slower passages (and each of the four tracks feature at least one slow section) present the bone-chill and inherent hopelessness of trekking through snow-swept landscapes and traversing icy mountains. The clean passages in the 11+ minute closer, "Farewell" coupled with the harmonized vocals really get across a feeling of cold sadness, whilst casting away a fallen brother before lighting his boat on fire and pelting him with flaming arrows (Viking funerals are fucking hardcore).
The fact that I've used a lot of Viking imagery to describe the feel of the album shows that Warseid has managed to tap into a vein that so many bands aim for and miss with damn near hilarious frequency. Where Fate Lies Unbound truly deserves the tag of "viking metal", as opposed to the hideous misnomer I see consistently applied to bands like Amon Amarth and Hammer Horde. Yes, this smacks of Vintersorg and mid-era Bathory much more than any type of dorky folk metal or melodeath babble, though I can't help but feel like the aggressive aspect of the music is given a bit more time in the limelight than their predecessors. Coming from a fan of thrash and tech death and punk, obviously more aggression is something I love to hear in any style of music, it's why I like Ortagos more than Xasthur and it's why I actually like this young outfit more than many of their peers. And with that said, I must point out that these boys manage to balance the downtrodden sounds of needless bloodshed, the fire of battle, and the epic relief of triumph masterfully. I can't point to any of the four songs on display as "the fast one" or "the ballad" or anything like that, all four of them act as their own self contained tale of honor and bloodshed, and the EP feels more like one cohesive experience as opposed to merely a collection of songs as a result.
Now, granted this does mean that the album is somewhat lacking in variety from track to track, with each and every song containing a segment with soaring keys and triumphant tremolo riffs and an accompanying section of sad clean guitars and whatnot, but the variety within each track makes up for it in my eyes. A full length album of this would surely wear out its welcome before the end of the running time, but as a four track, 30 minute EP it works marvelously, and there really isn't much more I can ask out of the band. Maybe it's because I've heard somewhere between zero and two Borknagar songs in my lifetime, so there's a chance I'm reaching a bit when it comes to similarities, but in addition to the obvious Nordland type Bathory influence, I can't help but also think of Northland. Yeah, that obvious Ensiferum knockoff from Spain, that Northland. The harsh vocals sound nearly identical to me, with even the same minor distortion when they get louder, so that certainly helps in the comparison, but really and truly it's simply the fact that sounds like if Freezing Sadness was more ambitious, better produced, and written by a band mature enough to reach for more than one band for inspiration.
So basically if you like legit viking metal (think Twilight of the Gods, not Twilight of the Thunder God), then you really can't go wrong with Warseid. I see them constantly tagged as "symphonic black/folk metal", which I guess isn't wrong, but really all I can think of when listening to Where Fate Lies Unbound are the OG, real viking metal bands. Listen and judge for yourself I suppose, which you can totally do effortlessly since you can stream this entire EP for free on the band's Bandcamp, and if you're a super nice soul you can buy the darn thing too, along with some killer merch. I'm not even affiliated with the band, I just like this so much that I can't help but act as a shameless promotion machine, bite my anus.
Originally written for http://lairofthebastard.blogspot.com/
Warseid presents a rather unique blend of symphonic black metal and folk metal on their new self-released EP, Where Fate Lies Unbound. Themes of Norse mythology typically come from the Scandinavian regions, and Warseid has to be one of the very few bands that I encounter so far from America that deals with these themes, and it would be interesting to see how they handle it.
The results are surprisingly good. The band starts off rather calming and soothing, with folkish acoustic guitars giving way to equally melodic lead guitar lines as the band presents their fusion of black and folk metal to the listener. The instrumentation on the album are impressive, as each of the members are given plenty of air time to display their craft. For instance, the synths on the album alternate between providing an epic feel to the music and more melancholic atmospheres, and the band displays this right from the beginning with Shackles Through Sand. Also, Joe’s lead playing are rather soothing as well, often focussing on the melodic aspect rather than on showing off through flamboyant techniques, fitting to the overall feel and atmosphere of the music on Where Fate Lies Unbound. Furthermore, Joe handles the vocals in Warseid as well, and apart from the high-pitched shrieks, he also handles clean vocals on the release, and though not particularly a fan of his clean vocals, they do suit the quieter moments well.
Despite the Nordic themes of the band, on tracks like Frost Upon the Embers, there is a somewhat oriental feel in the orchestration that is present in the music, and the somewhat festive feel contrasts the mood that the rest of the instruments portray, causing a pretty interesting and charming result. There are also progressive moments that are incorporated into the music of Warseid, such as the shifting in time signature, and this, along with the symphonic elements that are present in the music all point towards bands such as Ihsahn, though there is a heavier folk influence over here.
Overall this has been a rather stunning release, and the atmosphere in the music makes for rather easy listening even for those who aren’t fans of black metal.
Wisconsin's Warseid writes and performs with an evocative blend of progressive and symphonic extreme metal elements that seems somewhat out of place and character for the Midwest, a region I tend to associate largely with brutal death and gore (and thrash before that, in the 80s). That's not to say they don't do it well, because if there's one incessant plus on this Where Fate Lies Unbound EP, it's that the group is constantly engaging the listener through shifting dynamics, layers of melody and musicianship that never rest on tired repetitions, and they deal with genre identity in rather broad strokes, never throwing out an idea if it will fit into the song's sense of adventure.
The clean guitars on this release are superb, anchored with rhythmic percussion and exotic mystique, particularly at the onsets of "Shackles Through Sand" and "Frost Upon the Embers", but the majority of the material consists of winding, progressive black/death passages that reminded me of a union between the Vintersorg solo works and latter-day Death. Much of this is joined by synthesized orchestration, though they keys often erupt into more prog-laden atmospheres like the bridge to "The Vengeance Pact". The vocals are a pretty average, a functional smattering of slick rasps and slightly bloodier growls, delivered in syncopated step with the music, but not by themselves all that tormented or interesting. There's also a somber, folk element at play, not so much until the 11 minute finale "Farewell", with cleaner vocal harmonies that air gracefully alongside the lush and seasoned acoustics; but I'd say the center of that track felt a little too 'tavern metal' for me, if you can make that connection. The lyrics are a little less complex than the musical ambitions, tales of battle and adversity rooted in Nordic myth, but not badly written.
Wasn't hugely into the rhythm guitar tone, which felt a bit too polished for my liking and didn't seem capable of delivering the riffs with enough power to really drive them home. Granted, they are crystal clear, and allow the listener the aural registry of every crisp, delicate note progression. The guitars are constantly chucking out new riff sequences to keep the listener curious for what will happen next. In fact, the proficiency level of all the musicians is quite high, from the beats to the note selections, you get the feeling Warseid has a lot of experience listening to numerous sub-genres of metal, and no shortage of ideas. I never thought the electric guitars were as memorable as the cleaner sequences, and the keys and axes felt a bit flimsy and incoherent in places to the point that the songs rarely came together for me in their entirety, but Where Fate Lies Unbound is certainly a showcase of talents, and the mix of styles is not obtuse. Even if these particular tunes didn't always satisfy my attentions, I don't perceive any limit to what Warseid might accomplish with further writing and refinement.