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I Shalt Become > Wanderings > Reviews
I Shalt Become - Wanderings

Meditation metal - 80%

we hope you die, April 11th, 2019

For all the digs at American black metal that I shoehorn into my reviews wherever I can, there is a small yet significant clutch of disparate artists who are more than worth their salt in the land of the free. One much underrated example is the one man ambient black metal project known as I Shalt Become. Put ‘American’, ‘one man’, ‘ambient’, ‘black metal’ together and one could not be blamed for losing interest, especially considering the appalling grammar in the name of this project. But I Shalt Become is an exception that proves a rule in my book.

His debut ‘Wanderings’ released all the way back in 1998 pretends to be America’s answer to Burzum, cover-art and all; and it comes fairly close to succeeding all things considered. This is really slow, lo-fi black metal that pretty much does what it says on the tin. It offers lonely, grey, oppressive riffs, offset by barely present distorted vocals, tinny drums, and some pretty off the wall lyrics. The guitars are actually massive, which was the right choice given that they dominate the sound with slow but creative riffs, deliberately crafted to be played below the 80bpm mark.

Whether it’s simple arpeggios, lumbering chord progressions, or just out and out droning, S. Holliman’s mastery of this tool to get the exact sound required for this stripe of black metal is a pleasure to listen to. ‘Wanderings’ is a good example of putting everything at the service of mood and atmosphere. Don’t get me wrong, there are some creative riffs worked in here, but at times they get repetitive, even for minimalist black metal. At this point the overbearing guitar tone can become a detriment, as it simply refuses to allow the repetition to wash over you, commanding as it is of one’s attention.

The album ends with a selection of covers from of Judas Iscariot and Burzum, a heavy nod to the already obvious influences. Holliman’s may not be in the same league as these artists when it comes to the nuts and bolts of riffcraft, but he knows when he’s on to a good idea. And he certainly knows how to use the tools of the trade to get as much out of each riff as possible in the service of this bleak, meditative music.

‘Wanderings’ I have a personal soft spot for, it being one of the first pieces of none-Norwegian black metal I got my hands on and really got lost in. But there are considerable flaws on the canvas despite its charms.

Originally published at Hate Meditations

Wanderings - 83%

Lars_Stian, March 4th, 2017

When I first heard ''Wanderings'', I thought it was terrible. The album does grow on you, however. The unprofessionalism was initially bothersome, yet I came to love it. It is very simplistic, yet it manages to create an eerie and melancholic atmosphere. There are clear Burzum influences, yet not so much so that it sounds like a complete rip off.

The tempo stays quite slow throughout, whilst the guitar plays a few couple of notes. The guitar work mainly consists of let ring and the likes, as well as a some powerchord, though typical metal traits like tremolo-picking and palm muting is pretty much non-existent on ''Wanderings''. In terms of guitar work, this album is somewhat similar to Burzum's ''Filosofem''. Where this album strongly differs from Burzum, however, is the song lengths. Only one song hits the 6 minutes mark, and most songs are between 2 and 4 minutes long.

What truly makes this album special, however, is the atmosphere. The piercing guitar tone, simplistic drumming and bad production creates an atmosphere of pure melancholy, coldness, grimness, and whichever other kvlt-sounding synonyms you can find. It is quite easy to get lost, for a lack of a better term, in this. It is oddly relaxing, and creates an essence of wandering through a dark forest during winter.

The vocals aren't too amazing however. They sound like the vocalist hasn't really rehearsed his shrieks, and they sound a bit weak. The vocals are a bit low in the mix, which does kind of hide its flaws, so the vocals are definitely bearable. I do find the vocals to be somewhat intriguing, as the lyrics on each song only contains a few lines, and are quite cryptic. Not so much so that it sounds like meaningless wumbo, yet cryptic enough to be interesting.

Overall, I'd say ''Wanderings'' is a pretty good album, though I think that only those already familiar with the black metal scene would enjoy it. I'll also just briefly mention bonus cover tracks: I don't really have any comments for the Judas Iscariot ones, as I don't know the band, but the cover of ''En Ring til å Herske'' is really bad. The vocals are even worse, the tempo is all over the place, and the hums are all wrong.

Best songs:

Extremely Grim - 70%

TikrasTamsusNaktis, April 27th, 2012

The music on this album is very under-produced, but I am certain that this is what this project was intended for. The music utilizes razor sharp guitars that sound out of tune at times, but not often and the constant marching of the drumming creates a very cold, desolate atmosphere that really does leave the listener feeling as though they are lost and "wandering" (pun clearly intended).

The second track, "Fragments", is quite possibly the grimmest piece of music I have ever heard. The piercing sharpness of the guitar that swells and wraps around you makes you feel uncomfortable and it builds up until the grimmest riff of all comes in to choke you out and leave you broken and weak in the snow. This riff is very simple and is repeated throughout the entire song. The production surely does help this riff feel so desolate. If there was one song that I would want to be played as I bleed to death alone in the snow-covered forest, it would be this one. THAT DOES NOT GIVE ANYONE PERMISSION TO DO THAT TO ME. Just had to put that out there.

The album continues along the same pattern, and the riffs are essentially very simple and repeated many times throughout the songs. The vocals are rather strange and are a sort of a twisted snarling that I cannot say I enjoy too much. At times it seems as if the vocalist is not trying to show emotion or is being lazy. The album doesn't really have any more highlights after the track that I had mentioned before, but nonetheless, this album is full of desolate music which will not comfort the listener in any way at all.

This album has become a sort of cult classic in the USBM underground and rightfully so. It certainly does stay true and "kvlt" in terms of poor production and creating an atmosphere of utmost desolation and grimness. This album is recommended for disturbed people who are true to the roots of cold black metal.

Shards of Glass Lay Broken on the Floor... - 95%

RapeTheDead, February 28th, 2012

...children walk on them so innocently...

I’ve always had an odd fascination with outliers- the extreme, the strange, the creative, those daring to take what others think is discomforting and display it on their chest without caring about how they’ll be judged. It’s really the core reason I’m so invested in metal- to sum it up as accurately as possible with one word, metal is freedom. Freedom to express any emotion one so desires, freedom to portray any sort of theme, no matter how uncomfortable or offensive, and freedom to take sounds and vibrations many consider abrasive or even unlistenable and use them to express an artistic statement. The same could be said for all music, I suppose, but metal takes the most advantage of all the different facets of this freedom to my ears in the many different forms it takes- thrash metal’s uncompromising anger, brutal death metal’s portrayal of sadistic and offensive themes, power metal’s unashamed escapism and fantasy- all of them represent some sort of freedom an individual possesses.

Then there’s black metal. To me, black metal is the genre that exemplifies freedom the most out of any metal genre. Though many probably think that black metal has been a cold, negative, evil genre from its inception onward, I’d have to disagree with that. Even from the beginning, when a bunch of weird Norwegian kids basically solidified black metal into a real, definable genre, black metal was never really negative- the extremity and satanic themes in the music were used as catalysts to send the message that Norway needed to return to its pagan roots- freedom of religion. It is a genre born of youthful passion- all of my favorite black metal bands, many of which are essential to the genre- Burzum, Ulver, Obtained Enslavement, Spite Extreme Wing, to namedrop a few- never sounded dark or negative to me. Rather, their music sounded full of vitality, ideas, full of room for full, flowing, elegant compositions to breathe- never before had I heard music that broke traditional shackles with such daring vigor.

Right about now is where DSBM comes in. In many ways, this kind of music, despite taking tons of influence from Burzum and Ulver, is the antithesis of my beliefs of what black metal should be about. Sure, there’s certainly a lot of anger in black metal, but it’s angry in the sense that men with strong hearts and minds trying to break free from the emotional burdens they possess are angry- they cry in determination and desperation as they try and rip the chains off their arms. DSBM is that same prisoner; in this case, though, they gave up a long time ago. Seemingly no effort is put into the compositions, the vocals meekly croak along, the music is very stripped down and simplistic, often using a maximum of maybe two riffs per song over ten minutes, hoping that with each repetition their thin, shallow riff will gain profundity. Most of the time, this doesn’t work well at all- the music is boring and because of that the sadness and despair in it comes off as laughable and immature. This is the root of why much DSBM is the subject of much ridicule from a lot of black metal fans.

I did say “most of the time” though. There are exceptions to this rule. One of them- one of the first of their kind, and still among the best in their field to this day- is I Shalt Become. Although I just stated that DSBM is very restrictive and trapped, therefore going against black metal’s supposed freedom, I also did say near the beginning of this review that one of metal’s main assets is that it takes themes that many consider uncomfortable and makes them the prime focus of their art. Wanderings proves this to the fullest extent, and goes where few men tread- the dark, insanity-ridden corners of the human mind- and it gets there by USING the restrictive aesthetics of DSBM. The very notion of this album is an anomaly, which makes sense, because it only gets weirder from here.

Oddly enough, nothing on here ever seems as if it was created out of pure impulse or spontaneity. Rather, every single iota of detail on this album is carefully and meticulously composed. Even though contrasting melodies pop up at random and infrequent intervals and the vocals are amorphous and raw (more on those things a little later) none of it ever surprises you- and that’s exactly the way it’s meant to be. This album is perfectly content to remain reclusive within its own little world, never venturing outside of DSBM’s unwritten “rules”. The difference between them and something awful like Velvet Cacoon, however, is that I Shalt Become remains confined as a choice rather than because of any sort of limitation based on style or lack of creativity. Holliman would rather explore the dark, tormented corners of his mind rather than cry about the very existence of those corners. This isn’t so much an album that takes you through someone’s emotional torture- rather, it merely opens up a dark, strange path that the listener can choose to take.

Compositions are never given room to breathe on this album; the songs here are almost being suffocated in their repetitiveness. Although the songs aren’t extensively long- a good deal of them clock in at about three minutes- by their end, they’re still exactly where they began. Eerie riffs bleed into one another and because of their many similarities, it’s done in a way that you barely notice, even when you’re trying to. Pacing never changes, tension is never built or released- it just remains throughout. It remains, unchanged as the song slowly looks around for room to grow, looks for its real established purpose, looks for something new with every riff but, of course, never finds anything and the song ends as unceremoniously as it began; this, in and of itself, is insanity. The songs repeat themselves and expect something different to happen with each repetition- was it not once said that insanity is “doing the same thing again and again expecting a new result every time”? Now, one might think that this is a false claim of musical genius, that the lack of, well, any sort of change in any of the songs is simply lazy or poorly thought-out songwriting on Holliman’s part. However, there are in fact a few sparse sections throughout Wanderings that show just the slightest hint at a delicate, intricate melody, or something resembling powerful, purposeful anger; perhaps even a slight speeding up of the music. Then, it ends as soon as you realize it just occurred. These parts add nothing to the album’s experience but the realization that Holliman is easily capable of much more. These, however rare, are the last desperate cries of the sane human mind, trying to break free. Trying to break free from the voices, from the addiction to mind-altering drugs, from the reality that you’ll always be a failure whose life heads in no direction- and as much as Holliman tries to change it- as much as he tries to change the song, he can’t. He’s forever condemned to walk in circles, to create the same thing, over and over again, not because he wants to, not because it’s all he can do, but because he HAS to. It’s what his emotions drive him to create. This music wasn’t created because it was pleasant; it was created out of necessity to release these emotions, and thus, the (lack of) progression in the songs is fitting, logical, and downright creepy.

Why, then, is the album called Wanderings? For an album with that title, it sure seems to remain confined in its own bleak ambition and hopeless, dreary haze. Well, you see, this album isn’t so much about wandering the earth as it is wandering one’s psyche- these guitars mull about and explore the corners of one’s mind. If the guitars define the path this album travels through, the vocals are the voices that call out from the path. This is a very guitar-centric album, the drums being very minimal and doing little more than complimenting the music and doing only what they must and nothing more, running parallel to the music’s mood. The vocals are similar in a way- they appear very infrequently, shriek, shout and wail at the heavens, and then fade away. Anything goes with these screams- from tortured shrieks that DSBM listeners will be well accustomed with to more subdued rasps to stale, gravelly croaking, it’s all here. The vocal performance is downright unsettling, but it’s not something that you notice right away because it dips and darts around the edges of the music- it takes a few listens before it slowly intrudes your brain, gets into your subconscious, and THEN you start picking up on it.

It’ll take a few listens for everything to come into place- I don’t think anyone’s going to be absolutely floored by something like this on an initial listen because the actual building blocks of the music are rather unremarkable on their own. It’s simply that Holliman makes use of these pieces in genial, curious ways and it takes a while for the coherent puzzle to fit together. But what will entice you to give this band more attention than an obligatory cursory listen on youtube? Well, although some people disagree with me, the lyrics and the presentation of the music have just as much of a factor on the album’s quality as any element of the music does, and Wanderings is wrapped up in a package that leaves you with more questions than answers. The information in the booklet is extremely minimal, and the lyrics are among the best lyrics that have ever been written in metal, hands down. They’re brief, abstract passages that seem to cover a variety of topics, although most of them, when placed within the context of their music and their delivery, seem to reflect the contemplation of the worst, most uneasy aspects of the self, heavily couched in metaphor. They’re the gate to the hopeless, pitch black chasm that this album is. Their minimalism contributes to their versatility- you can read them on their own and read them along with the music- both provide equally enjoyable experiences and raise their own individual questions.

The first time you hear this album, don’t expect anything special. Quite frankly there is nothing inherently “special” on this album. While this is probably just me forming my own baseless conclusion, I almost see this as an intentional antithesis of black metal’s vast pantheon of powerful, triumphant, gripping music- yes, this owes great nods to Burzum, but whereas Burzum is hypnotic, dreamlike and surprisingly melodic, I Shalt Become prefers to take up the negative space and simply dwells in its own self-loathing, collapsed under the weight of the freedoms inherent to black metal. This is nothing more than a camera’s view into places in our mind that we previously ignored- the shrieks, the screams, the despair that we all posses somewhere in there but prefer to disregard because we can’t quite come to terms with it- we can’t quite come to terms that something this horrid exists within something like a regular human being. In the ultimate display of insanity, I Shalt Become not only refuses to reject this, but puts it on display, perhaps even glorifies it, perceiving it as the only way to truly come to terms with one’s self.

Whether or not you will embrace this, however, is entirely up to you. Whether or not you choose to accept the fact that something as deranged, disheartening and scarily powerful lies within all of us is completely at your discretion- you could just finish reading this review and move on with your life, as I Shalt Become’s masterpiece of a debut become nothing more than a buried memory. You could even listen to this album tens of times and not have “the gears turn” as I said, because your state of mind just isn’t right for this album, whether you’re conscious of that or not. But one day, when nothing fits together and you’re feeling detached from yourself, when there’s a hollow emptiness that no drug could ever remedy, when you’re feeling somewhat at odds with your sanity, only then will this album make sense. Only then will you understand the nature of this album and how deep it travels and why it goes where it goes and does what it does. Only then will you recognize this for the masterful work of art it truly is.

...and the spirit drifts away...

Likeable album depicting loneliness and melancholy - 70%

NausikaDalazBlindaz, April 27th, 2008

Reissued with three additional tracks, this album is a good depiction of loneliness and melancholy even if the influences are obvious. Yes, I Shalt Become certainly relies on Burzum for a lot of musical inspiration in a number of tracks throughout this album with "Winter Lights" being perhaps the most blatant example - it even sounds like an intro to one of the tracks on Burzum's "Filosofem" album - than the rest. The original ISB songs tend to have a repetive, almost looping structure (and this in itself can remind you of Burzum at times) and most of them are fairly short with the exception of "Winter Lights" which hits nearly 7 minutes in length. The music is raw but has a fairly clear production so that the singing comes across well even though it's very much in the background.

Speaking of singing, the vocals can actually be something remarkable to hear: yes, they are low in the mix and can be dominated by the guitars but they are very snarling and varied and on some tracks they are very tortured. On "Labyrinthine", ISB sole member S Holliman's voice is like a cross between Attila Csihar at his nuttiest and Striborg's Sin-nanna in near-Donald Duck mode. On "Thorns" the comparison with Csihar becomes more obvious as Holliman tries a near-operatic style for size and the music adopts a solemn funereal pace. Most of the music in fact isn't especially fast and as the album progresses the music gets more doomy so it seems to get slower and the singing becomes even more tortured with the occasional howl and Holliman starts getting fits of demonic growling and gargling as if he's turning into one of Satan's hordes himself.

The printed lyrics are very sparse and cryptic and songs like "Fragments", "The Funeral Rain" and "Insects" hint at far more than is actually present in the tracks and have an almost poetic haiku quality. It is not often we can say black metal lyrics are poetic!

The three bonus tracks are covers of songs by Burzum and Judas Iscariot which unintentionally show up shortcomings in ISB's own songs: the covers have very distinctive melodies and riffs that can often be repetitive but because the original artists varied them by changing key or picking out particular elements in them and emphasising those, the songs don't become a series of repeating loops, they become "repetition with variation". So it's perhaps not all that surprising that ISB seems to put more effort into these songs than into his own material: the covers are complex compared to the simple structures of the original "Wanderings" songs so of course they demand more musicianship. The singing on these covers on the other hand is about the same as on ISB's own work: very pained and snarling and sometimes on the deranged side. The Judas Iscariot song "The Heavens drop with Human Gore" is an especially long and varied song here and I wonder why Holliman at the time didn't take a few tips from this song and applied them to his own work to give it a more dynamic and flowing quality - some of the songs on "Wanderings" can seem quite stand-still even though there may be a lot going on in them.

Overall this is a likeable album although the best thing about it is Holliman's strangled vocals. The bonus tracks are perhaps not quite the welcome addition they could have been as they make the original ISB material seem insubstantial.

Wanderings - 90%

JPSPearson, March 20th, 2008

I Shalt Become- Wanderings

This album is quite an obscure gem, and has only just seen a re-release by Moribund Records. Although there are flaws to this record which the reviewer only percieves as minor, one should not let this get in the way of the artistic validity of this music.

'Wanderings' was released originally in 1996 by one-man act I Shalt Become, and musically is indebted mainly to the arpeggio lead riff structures of Burzum and the loose musical execution portrayed in such albums like 'Thousand Swords' by Graveland, and 'Thy Dying Light' by fellow countrymen Judas Iscariot.

The guitars sound quite blurry and chaotic, having the kind of noise and timbre one might associate with the 'Decrepitude' tracks from Burzum's 'Filosofem', and as mentioned in the previous paragraph, are defined by arpeggio based riffs that are melancholic and were seemingly intended to be keyed in minor. Interesting also is the addition on some songs of a second guitar which plays harmonic variations on the standard melody, as shown on songs such as 'Fragments', 'Winter Lights' and 'Thorns'. This technique can be seen first put into practice by Burzum, on the song 'Det Som En Gang Var', and S.Holliman, the sole author of I Shalt Become's music, seems to incorparate this technique as a permanent formula, giving the recorded product more atmospheric depth, hence also outweighing the 'lack' of musical ability and virtuosity towards which many outsiders to the black metal genre are so often scornful. This technique, in the opinion of the reviewer, can also be seen in the works of Xasthur, Levaithan, Sombre Chemin, late-era Krieg, and Drudkh.

Drums are programmed in a minimal fashion, and sometimes sound out of time, though this assists the loose guitar playing quite well, making everything sound more honest and earthy, never at any any time compromising the artistry.

Vocals are somewhat akin to those of Attila Csihar of Mayhem and Tormentor, with the somewhat more in the background, with more emphasis on reverb and less throat dynamics than that of said vocalist. On occasion the vocals are half sung, not too unlike Krieg's 'The Black House' which was released many years after this album.

The lyrical themes are that of loss, sorrow and decay, and a have a nostalgic approach to these themes, rather than the sometimes annoying, selfish, life-denying tendencies espoused by many of the 'black metal elitists', examplified best by bands such as Shining, who are at heart fatalists.

In a brief summary, this is an excellent and original record which deserves the attention of contemplative listeners, and a template for the 'depressive' black metal best examplified by Xasthur, Leviathan, Weakling, and downbeat, chaotic NSBM acts such as Sombre Chemin and Veil, though there are many other bands whose sound and vision can also trace it's origins to this record.

An Album Just As Brief As The Career. - 75%

Perplexed_Sjel, August 12th, 2007

Despite having a very short career, Holliman's creation, I Shalt Become have gained notoriety amongst black metals underground fanbase for its inspiring bleak and cold nature. As aforementioned, I Shalt Become are one of those few bands that were around for a very short amount of time, but managed to impact the scene undeniably through the vast assortment of dark emotions.

Influences, such as Burzum, are easy to see. That may give an indication of what to expect from this full length release. It often reminds me of Amaka Hahina also, with a seemingly dark ambient influence as well. This comparison is made even more likely by the buzzing production and deranged high pitched screams. Thus making this one very bleak recording. Repetitive riffs are the driving force, as per usual. Generally they're played at a comfortable mid-pace, which suits the type of vocals available, as they tend to be long and drawn out. They depict the lyrical themes of both emptiness and desolation exceedingly well. Though the riffs and drumming can be somewhat repetitive, they are mesmerising and somewhat refreshing. The drum patterns do tend to mix up a little, more so than the riffs. It feels as if you're being bitten into by wolves, or having hooks dug into your skin. Its painful, cut throat and never likely to let go. The music swells into an entrancing noise which captures your imagination and takes it to a world where light doesn't exist. Where ill feeling roams freely. Bass is somewhat lost in the mix, but in circumstances like these, bass isn't that important and is certainly not what sets a band apart from another. The lyrics are nothing special. They're your usual description of a type of pain i assume Holliman was feeling when he recorded the full length. They're not really for me to judge. In my opinion, black metal vocals serve to enhance a mood, or depict a certain type of feeling and Holliman does that with precision and skill. The songs don't drag on, they are short and keep a listeners attention until the end. Negatives depend on what the listener requires from music. I suggest you avoid Wanderings if you dislike repetition, piercing shrill vocals and a distinct lack of creativity. Most black metal fans will find themselves content with this recording however, its nothing new and brand spankingly original.

Its hard to choose highlights. Fragments is probably my personal choice.

A True Black Metal Classic - 90%

Darkwalker, June 14th, 2007

I Shalt Become is a one-man black metal band formed by S. Holliman hailing from the United States of America. Usually I am not one for American black metal, but this band is an exception. I Shalt Become’s Wanderings is reminiscient of Burzum and Judas Iscariot (another American black metal band). In fact, the bonus album includes a couple of Judas Iscariot covers.

From the start, this album is pure, raw, and misanthropic black metal. The second track, “Fragments” makes me want to prowl through a wintry forest. Repetitive riffs, harsh/shrieking vocals, and the poor sound quality all contribute to form a soupy realm of another world. Most songs, with the exception of Labyrinthine and the bonus tracks are very slow and repetitive, but Holliman manages to keep the songs interesting and refreshing. This can mainly be attributed to the fact that the songs are relatively short, something that is a relative rarity in black metal.

Oftentimes in a black metal album, the vocals become overwhelming and serve simply to detract from the overall mood of the song. Not so with Wanderings. The vocals come at exactly the right intervals to keep the songs flowing. They also serve only to increase the sense of depression and misanthropy that defines this album.

By far the greatest highlight of this album would be the song “The Funeral Rain.” The riff in the beginning of the song honestly blew my mind. The song keeps getting grimer and grimer as it progresses. Holliman’s vocals are a mix of ghostly murmurings and shrieking howls that make the listener feel as though he had landed in the dark, ice covered forests of Norway. While the drumming and the guitar playing are not anything phenomenal, they combine to create an atmosphere that could not get any better.

To any who enjoy depressive NSBM, I strongly recommend this album.