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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.