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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.