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Following my enthusiasm for their album Loss, I was eager to see what Wodensthrone would do for their followup effort Curse. Loss was a great album, though there clearly was room for improvement in some areas. Curse is the next logical step of progression for the band with the few flaws that were present in Loss remedied and the qualities that made the album good improved even more.
The intro piece "The Remaining Few" may not be as epic as "Fyrgenstréam" on Loss, but it nevertheless serves as a fitting calm before the storm of atmospheric black metal which comes in 40 seconds into the album. I've talked about the purifying rainstorm atmosphere on Loss. That atmosphere is present here on Curse, but I feel that it's an even more violent storm as well as a more purifying one. Some of the things that build this effect include the improved guitar and drum production to help even out the layering of instruments. With these parts a little louder in the mix, the rain in the atmospheric imagery falls harder and the wind blowing stronger. As a welcome side effect, whenever the music does reach a calmer sounding break, these calm parts feel a lot more epic.
Take for instance the first real song after the intro piece. The first third of "Jormungandr" consists of this raging storm of furious tremolo riffs, blast beats, and a lower volume keyboard in the background. Then everything just slows down at that third way point with this awesome sounding flute leading to a buildup riff that releases itself onto a slow tempo climax. Almost all the songs have this sort of break, buildup, climax combo in them though none of them follow the same exact style. "First Light" for instance has the big break later in the song and the climax is a faster storm of riffs and blast beats. The only song that follows the pattern in a noticeably more awkward fashion is "The Storm", which has its break and buildup right at the end which plays right into "The Name of the Wind".
With the keyboards toned down a bit, it's much easier to appreciate the guitar work on this album compared to Loss. The melodic guitar work is excellent at driving this rainstorm atmosphere and the riffs are well written and well played; I've found myself doing my fair share of air guitaring to many of the passages on this album. The drums are also praiseworthy with Ian "Hréowsian" Finley's playing definitely being memorable while maintaining a great amount of fluidity on slower sections like the buildup on "Jormungandr" as well as having great precision while blast beating.
Curse is definitely a superior storm to me than Loss and is an obvious recommendation for those into Wolves in the Throne Room styled atmospheric black metal. But, much more than a run of the mill release, Wodensthrone have definitely put their own personal touch on this album. And yet, there's still room left for them to progress further and make more great music; and so, I await what storm they bring next.
If I hadn't known better, the opening acoustic chords and warm crackling fire which open "Curse" would have alone told me that I was in for a ride of majestical, sweeping, organic and powerful black metal from the UK's own Wodensthrone, but as a frequent listener to their stunning debut album "Loss" from 2009 there really was no other way this could be. From soaring BM riffs which recall Irish masters Primordial, an earthly spirit borrowed from Negura Bunget and a sense of British pride not unlike brothers-in-arms Winterfylleth, what Wodensthrone create with these influences should offer no excuse for muted appreciation from existing fans of pagan and religious black metal acts of the likes of Bunget to Watain as well as having the sort of self-awareness which should pull in a few outsiders to the club.
Woven into songs averaging 9+ minutes in length, Wodensthrone display an expertise in utilising the symphonic capabilities of their keyboards as a subtle backing to the lethal riffs which set apart the likes of "First Light", "The Great Darkness", "The Storm" and "The Name of the Wind" from what you'll find most other BM acts can offer. For the most part the band hammer along at a fervent speed, offering no delusions to them being an outright black metal band at their core, but to label them as one-dimensional blasters would be mis-leading. The soaring first seven minutes of "First Light"'s eleven build gradually to a crescendo which peaks in it's latter stages. First song proper "Jormungandr" begins in traditional black metal fare until ambient textures intervene midway through. "Battle Lines" is a slowly building epic where Wodensthrone's habit of melding spitting BM rhythms with more angular riffs gives something different to identify in the songs more muscular moments. "Wyrgthu"'s lead riff is more Winterfylleth (for any devout fans of that equally great act) and more melodic in nature, with the harsh vocals sounding more impressive here than at any other point in the album.
The shortest of all the proper tracks at a hefty 6 minutes, "The Storm" befits its name as the most frantic of the lot before "The Name of the Wind" closes out with the kind of riffs Primordial would be proud to call their own. In its entirety the production on "Curse" is exceptional; the darkness of the tone, not just from keyboards but in all guitars and vocals, is mesmerising and superbly balanced. At 68 minutes "Curse" is no easy listen but it goes to show that when its myriad sub-genres are ignored, black metal is as relevant as ever when records like this continue to emerge from the deep, passionate underground.
Originally written for www.Rockfreaks.net
Black Metal has been subject to more stylistic progression and genre classifications than any other sub-genre in the metal world: depressive black metal; atmospheric black metal; folk black metal; symphonic black metal; raw black metal; first and second wave black metal; black thrash; crust black metal; the list goes on. Most black metal bands tend to stick with a chosen sub-genre, reaching out briefly to touch another, but rarely branching far enough to completely envelop and be twice categorized. Wodenthrone's “Curse” is one of the few albums that bridges several sub-genres, and still manages to have a cohesive feel, even if that feeling leaves a slightly sour aftertaste.
Not being privy to the grandiose experience, cited as such by many, that is 2009's “Loss”, Wodenthrone's sophomore release, “Curse”, is my first dealing with the ever-so-difficult-to-describe band. Wodensthrone presents two distinct styles, atmospheric black metal and a more traditional black metal approach, and branch out from there. Several tracks contain the swirling, tremelo picked intensity of “Nattens Madrigal” era Ulver while others sound like a more doom influenced bedroom band, in the vein of early Xasthur or Leviathan. Wodensthrone doesn't bounce through these styles on each track, but rather use one these sub-genres as a starting point, making it a very bumpy ride: Doomy track, faster track, doomy track, faster track, you get the picture.
The more atmospheric side of Wodensthrone comes across very stiff and forced. Cheesy synths float in the background, not really adding much, aside from a slightly airy back drop. The doom-laden riffs, sounding similar to that of Drudkh's “Autumn Aurora”, continue on far too long for their own good and don't culminate into anything aside from organic interludes. The drums retain a steady pace throughout the entire album, which is a steady barrage of pummeling, near blast-beat intensity, only slowing down during the atmospheric, doomy sections. The vocals rarely present themselves during these sections, but when they do, it sounds similar to “For Funerals to Come” era Katatonia.
The faster, more traditional styled tracks still retain a doomy atmosphere, with the keys still floating in the background, but are difficult to hear over the intense guitars and drums. Really, the only difference is that the drums speed up slightly and the guitars go for more of an early Ulver swirling, trem picked style. The dual vocals show two very similar styles of black metal shrieks and screams, one is slightly higher pitched than the other, and remain fairly standard throughout, as far as black metal bands go. A few well defined riffs are scattered about, and are catchy as hell when present, but unfortunately a twenty second riff in a ten minute song is about the best you'll find.
Wodensthrone tends to do a lot of wandering on “Curse”. While portions of songs are enjoyable, the shear length of the tracks, and the album itself, make it a very difficult and challenging listen. The band seems to stray away and get lost in attempting to force an atmospheric aura on the listener. While the band succeeds in creating an organic, atmospheric feel, they fail to concentrate on building riffs and hooks. The doom-laden, trem picked guitars end up stagnating and going nowhere. Wodensthrone are definitely a talented bunch of black metallers but they lack direction.
“Curse” is an enjoyable listen in small doses, but the over-an-hour length, longevity of each track and lack of direction are huge drawbacks. The near aimless wandering of the tracks and the lack of riffs and hooks are a major disappointment. Wodensthrone, although talented, fail to create a thoroughly listenable album. “Curses” should appeal to fans of Drudkh and the like, but only if you don't mind aimless wandering. Unfortunately most will not find much enjoyment here.
Written for The Metal Observer
It's really hard to pinpoint an exact genre for U.K based group Wodensthrone, a different semi-atmospheric black/folk metal mixture injected with spurts of doom circulating throughout. Theirs is a name that has been making itself well known across the black metal scene during the past couple of years. Their previous, and debut, album Loss was born in 2009 and, despite a pretty low grade quality, the album had its fair share of content that kept listeners hoping for a follow up. Will Curse ultimately live up to its predecessor, and keep Wodensthrone on the tongues of metalheads?
One thing to be noted here that isn't seen on most standard dry cut black metal, is that the content is over an hour long. On Curse, this seems rather unnecessary and the material is mostly full of fillers; percussion and fast tremolo picked guitars that tend to go on forever. "First Light", "Battle Lines" and "The Name of the Wind" all clock in at over ten minutes in length. This trait is most commonly found amongst funeral/doom artists, and though it isn't unheard of in black metal styles it is uncommon. This may have worked in the bands favor if there were more variety present within the album itself, however in the long run ends up hindering its success.
Although not as muffled as their debut album, the audio quality does no favors for Wodensthrone. The guitars are mixed overwhelmingly loud and are distracting. During longer tracks, fast tremolo picking that gives an annoying sense of bees buzzing tends to take over for far too long and there is an abundance of alternating picking throughout the tracks that wears thin, fast. One my find themselves tuning out what is going on once in a while due to the invariable riffs.
Wodensthrone are a band that have a lot of potential, being comprised of two guitarists that double as vocalists, a drummer, keyboardist and bassist. Grievously, the potential seen slips through the cracks in Curse. Rarely rising to an audible level, the synths and keyboards make their presence barely known and would most likely remain unheard if it weren't for a few cut away parts that reveal nature sounds, such as a relaxing waterfall at the end of "First Light" which was soon accompanied by the sounds of swarming insects, which was another unnecessary additive.
Though not everything on Curse is cursed to be full of doom and gloom generic black metal riffage, "Jormungandr", "The Name of the Wind" and "Wyrgþu" are the highlights of the 8 song track listing and make the most out of all of the elements given from amongst the five members. Synths can be heard, a steady bass line, acoustic guitar pieces, and abundant with cymbal crashes. Vocally, everything existing in this record remains rather monotone with unforgiving inconsolable screeching
Curse is your average, raw semi-atmospheric black metal album that really doesn't have anything to define it as something different. Taking into account the ten minute plus tracks, not many casual listeners will find themselves sticking it out for the entire hour and six minutes of material that doesn't have any hooks, catches or riffs that overly stand out, or even leave a lasting impression that would cause one to come back for seconds.
- Villi Thorne
Originally posted on my reviews blog at heavymetalspotlight.blogspot.com
Curse, by English black-metal outfit Wodensthrone, is probably my most anticipated album of the year so far. Loss, the band's full length début is easily cemented among my top ten black-metal albums of all time, so naturally, I'm eager to find out if this album carries on the brilliance which the band have already established. Going by what people who have already had a chance to hear it have said, I'm in for a treat.
Things have changed a little since Wodensthrone last made an album. For starters, three years worth of development have come and gone in which the musicians in the band have toured, worked, and generally existed, and the consequence seems to be a more mature sounding album. The things which make Wodensthrone great are entirely still present, with vast, epic soundscapes of beautiful synth and intense black-metal atmosphere, but a little more refined, and flowing - Loss was beautiful, but Curse takes the same beauty and paints it in a slightly more even coat. The album seems to venture into slightly darker places than Loss, with songs like "The Great Darkness" being dark in more than just name - carrying a more grim atmosphere than anything from the previous album. It may sound superficial, but the artwork of the album really fits the tone - while Loss had a golden vision of a forest, in Curse, the sky is dark and brooding, and the music often reflects this, the songs sounding more warlike and often more angry. A lot of the music is still fantastically beautiful however, which is something that I hope the band never feel they should change. The diversity of atmosphere, however, really takes this album step beyond, and it feels more addictive and enrapturing than Loss felt when I listened to it at first.
The album has a lot more diversity vocally, too - Brunwulf, the vocalist who performed on Loss left the band in 2011, and as a result, the other members have split vocal duties between them. This adds a lot variety to the vocal dimension of the album - there are a few different styles of harsh vocal, and the occasional burst of harmonious clean voice. It's not really the vocals which make Wodensthrone for me personally, but I'll venture to say that they sound just as good, if not slightly better, in this album. The song-writing on Curse seems solid, sure-footed and confident. I wondered how they'd manage to follow up the music of Loss, and it seems they've definitely managed to make something which rivals it in strength. I'll have to wait until Curse settles into my routine listening before I can decide which I prefer, but both albums are magnificent in their own right. One of the things I love from Loss, the magnificent and hauntingly beautiful tremolos, seem to have been expanded on in Curse, and there are several shimmering moments which immediately sent shivers down my spine - the melodies which they summon are quite easily among my favourite by any band.
I can safely say that this album has most likely pushed Wodensthrone even further up my list of favourite bands. The sound is developed, matured, but also as beautiful as it has always been. I'm thoroughly impressed, and I'm glad that the band have managed to keep up with the quality of their début. If a three year gap between albums means that the albums are a good as this, then I'm happy to wait. It was well worth it.