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Where the trees stand as towers amid misty skies. - 80%

hells_unicorn, January 2nd, 2016
Written based on this version: 2012, CD, Deleting Soul Records (Limited edition)

The notion of any style of music being atmospheric may seem a redundancy in terminology as just any recording will rely on a certain degree of density and layering in order convey its intended meaning. However, the label tends to have a very specific connotation that makes it a necessary add-on, even in the case of black metal where atmosphere is arguably the most key element involved and takes a greater degree of importance versus impact than any other sub-genre of metal. There is something particularly engrossing about the peculiarly minimalist character of the game of notes involved and the continual addition of small moving parts to create a feel that can be likened to traveling without moving, visualizing landscapes far beyond one's line of sight. This is where a band like the Russian born Elderwind comes from musically, a place of vivid musical pictures with an eye particularly affixed upon the aesthetic of nature, and also one of rich texture built upon bare simplicity and consonant sound.

The English translation of their debut LP The Magic Of Nature is a very appropriate title, as the music conveys not only the grim coldness of winter as has long been associated with black metal, but also transition of seasons and the surreal effect that natural phenomena have upon those whom mindfully contemplate it. It's built primarily off of steady and generally slow beat patterns and slow evolving melodic material from the guitars and several synthesized instruments, often acting in a contrapuntal fashion, and then painted over with a continuous stream of airy keyboards. Occasionally things pick up in speed in the drumming department, but for the most part the sense of rapid motion is largely contained within the perpetual tremolo melodies and chords of the guitars, creating a shimmering effect that all but melts into the keyboard wash at the fringes, save a few short breaks where introductory or interlude material causes a cessation of all metallic elements.

In some ways this album and the style it conveys could be seen as self-contradictory given that while the guitars have a fair degree of bite, everything on here comes off as serene and beautiful in spite of the melancholy character of the musical themes being conveyed, save the vocals which are a dead-ringer for that agonized wail that typified early Burzum. In many respects, Elderwind has incorporated the very same basic musical aesthetic that Varg was starting to exhibit on Hvis Lyset Tar Oss, save that the ambient and black metal elements are conjoined together rather than confined to separate songs and the duration of each chapter is a bit shorter and easier to digest. Generally the songs tend to run together here, but it works well given the general uniformity of the album's subject matter, though "The Approach Of Spring" is a bit distinct in its incorporation of more agitated drum work and acts as a sort of high impact climax point in an otherwise gradual walk through an endless forest.

Like most albums in this style, Elderwind will prove to be an acquired taste that will mostly appeal to fans of the atmospheric black metal niche, particularly tending towards the heavily keyboard infused and doom-like variety that lends itself to meditative listening. It's a bit more accessible than some of the other recent projects to come out of said scene such as Midnight Odyssey in that it doesn't exaggerate the dense and distant sounding qualities of the styles production as greatly and offers the listener a scaled back and moderated version of the seemingly endless journeys through sound that have adorned many albums in this style. There are albums out there that are a bit more adventurous and take on a more dynamic approach to songwriting, but one could do far worse than the serene sounds with which this album blankets the listener and transports him/her to place of vivid tranquility.

Melodic BM attempt to capture beauty of nature - 70%

NausikaDalazBlindaz, January 24th, 2014

The English-language translation of this, Elderwind's only full-length release so far, is "The Magic of Nature" and as it turns out this is an apt description of the band's music and style. Hailing from Ekaterinburg, a city on the border between Europe and Asia (Siberia) in Russia, the musicians attempt to capture and describe in music and words the wonder and joy they feel from close contact and interaction with the natural environment that surrounds them.

From start to finish, the album moves with a steady if laid-back momentum. Elderwind's style is to layer a basic (and sometimes doomy) drum-beat with a thick barrage of harsh fizzing tremolo guitars, programmed percussion which is often near inaudible, simple pure-toned space-ambient or solo piano melodies and ambient keyboard wash. The vocals are set back in the mix so that they themselves become a stratum in the music. The music tends towards repetition within songs, with any variations mainly in the percussion and rhythms. Most songs have a brief melodic ambient opening with some field recordings of nature sounds.

For the most part the mood is relaxed and while the ambient sections bring in a cold and chilly atmosphere, the music overall has a positive, even celebratory and joyous feel. This is apparent from the third track ("Shining Star" in English translation) on. Some of the piano and clean-toned effects and melodies have a sugary saccharine edge to them which might not sit well with some of us hardened listeners. The best of the non-BM passages comes in the 7th track (English title: "When the Rain starts again") with a melancholy dark-shadow piano melody in parts.

To be honest, I can't single out particular tracks as being outstanding in any way as the music proceeds on an even keel for the most part and there aren't any great highs and lows. This is a serene work with no moments of anguish that might add some tension. The energy level is low because of the very relaxed nature of the music. For some listeners, the danger of being bored could be quite high. The closest the music comes to pepping up with blast beats and having a definite sense of direction is in the last three tracks but even with these songs, there are still long passages of very slow and quite lumbering music with cutesy toy ambient tunes.

For what it aims to do, the music succeeds in immersing listeners in a world of beauty and fragility but much of it does sound trite and kitschy. Any freshness and energy the music initially has disappears very quickly and the pace starts to drag. The album could have been shorter and still have made its point. This is one recording that might have benefited from having actual acoustic instruments playing the ambient parts instead of synthesisers with all their artificial tones and the restrictions they place on musicians.

Gorgeous atmospheric metal - 100%

Supakoopa666, January 7th, 2014

Just to get right out there and say it, this has got to be one of the best black metal albums I've ever heard. Hands down. I gave it a listen after it showed up in my YouTube recommendations, and I was completely and utterly blown away by this album.

Most atmospheric black metal I've heard so far is very dark and gloomy. Take Xasthur and Leviathan for example. Granted they're technically ambient/depressive, but they still are extremely atmospheric. Their music puts you in a dark place, a place devoid of light and happiness. Elderwind, on the other hand, to you to a beautiful nature sanctuary. It simply makes you feel good listening to it. Each song is layered with keyboards, strings, and the occasional ambient track, creating a bright atmosphere that sticks with you all day. The guitars usually play simple melodies in the background, adding to the overall tone. It's worth mentioning that there are barely any riffs on this album: it's purely melody driven, and it's a wonderful thing. This is backed up by a somewhat out of place raspy whispery scream, similar to what you hear on Xasthur's albums, but they really make it work. I do kind of wish there was an instrumental version of the album, but it's still perfect the way it is.

The overall tone of the album is one of a melancholy cheerfulness, if that makes any sense. A better way to put it is the musical equivalent of the light at the end of the tunnel, the silver lining of a dark cloud, or the dawn of a new day. It's a feeling of hope when you think all was lost, and it's a simply wonderful feeling. You feel like you're on a quest through some mystical wilderness in an ancient fantasy land, surrounded by nothing but the sounds of the forest. It truly makes you feel the magic of nature through its simple but powerful melodies.

All in all, this is definitely an album worth checking out. I rarely am privileged to hear such an awe-inspiring display of auditory bliss. This is definitely quickly shooting up into my favorite albums of all time. It's that good.

Favorite tracks: In the Snow, Shining Star, The Approach of Spring, Cold in the Soul

Least favorite tracks: None, they're all fantastic!

Engrossing; Though Admittedly a bit Sickly - 68%

boboy, May 2nd, 2013

Atmospherically oriented black metal is a genre that can often be its own worst enemy. I have always been of the persuasion that the style only has two modes; encapsulating, or insufferably boring. Even the works of the more revered names, like Lustre or Paysage d'Hiver, have always been hit and miss with me, either stumbling upon something utterly captivating, or frantically scrambling around in the dirt trying to do so.

Leaping into this scene headfirst is the one man Russian band Elderwind, composing evocative, nature themed black metal which tickles the musical lapels of the Burzums and Coldworlds of this world, but from a far more joyous perspective.

This jollity is embodied in the title track, which creeps into its length with a frosty ambient introduction which really sets a beautiful, verbose scene, in contrast to the tacky superfluousness which often plagues such introductory sequences. The track however does an about-face as soon as the rest of the instruments jump in, marching onwards with a plinky-plonky keyboard melody which I should hate, but in actuality find rather endearing. Can black metal be 'cute'?

Elsewhere, tracks such as Сияние звезд (Shining Star) demonstrate simple chorus melodies which are well-trodden, but euphoric to the ear. The track works towards a climactic outro piano solo which engulfs the rear portion of the track, and would be a flawless finale if it were not for the repeating bum note within the main arpeggio. Slightly grating, but tolerable.

Other standout moments on the album are admittedly hard to recall. As with most of this keyboard laden, post-Summoning black metal, the music tends to wash over the listener rather than reeling them in with intoxicating earworms. This is all well and good, and the album is quite engaging in its own way, but there is inevitably less staying power here than in a black metal album which sprinkles some variety within its atmospheric odysseys. There are only so many major key melodies to exploit, and while Elderwind manage to avoid re-hashing any of their passages on this CD, one does wonder how much more the band can feasibly squeeze from the mangled toothpaste tube of overt consonance.

From an aural standpoint, the production on the CD is crystal clear. The instruments sound balanced with one another, and the keyboards and synths confidently seize the leading role, dancing around in front of the sludgy rhythm section. There is not really anything more to comment on.

Ultimately, a strong debut. The wishy washy nature of Elderwind is not going to please everybody, but for those interested in music which is charismatic and hypnotic, then this may be a tree worth climbing.