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Like a Band Seeking Their Own Form - 90%

ijy10152, December 11th, 2021

Since about 2010 atmospheric black metal as a genre has really exploded. So many new and innovative bands are taking the structure provided by bands like Summoning, and Bathory to create something incredibly epic and cinematic. That's really what atmospheric black metal is, cinematic black metal... Well sometimes. Now there's such a variety of what is titled atmospheric black metal that the label has really broadened. My preferred style is exactly what Summoning and their offspring do. Since 2013 we've had Caladan Brood, Emyn Muil and now Untamed Land all trying their hardest to imitate Summoning, and yet add their own flair to the sound. Last year saw Emyn Muil release their second LP and one of the best albums of the year. While Emyn Muil is basically just modern Summoning, Untamed Land has a unique twist to add; it's summoning but with spaghetti western themes. It's actually quite brilliant and I thought their first album Between Winds was great, but Like Creatures Seeking Their Own Form takes all the excellence and potential and takes it to the next level (as a sophomore album should). 

Between Winds was more straightforward, more aggressive and marching. There was less dynamic range, and a lot more riffs and uptempo synth work. Like Creatures Seeking Their Own Form is more subtle; more subdued, and more intricate.  While it's less grandiose on the surface, the way they build up to the climaxes on this album is just magnificent. This is also a much shorter album, without the two shorter version tracks, it comes out to about 45 minutes. Because of that I think the two 10+ minute epics stand out a bit more than on the previous album. “Heavenly Coil” is such a great way for Patrick Kern to show how much he's improved, his songwriting is a lot tighter and less reliant on repetition. 

“Once Upon a Time In The Kenoma” is beautiful, no better way to describe it. It introduces the main melody that will repeat as a leitmotiff throughout the album. I just need to gush for a moment about how much I love when bands do this; creating a simple melody to base an entire album on with variations throughout is just great songwriting and Kern gets a lot of props for it here. “A Nameless Shape” actually starts things off with a march, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d accidentally put on an Atlantean Kodex album, but once the keys join the mix it is unmistakably Untamed Land. The first couple songs remind me the most of Between Winds, but you can already tell he’s going for a different tone, replacing repetition with more sections and more transitions. What really makes the difference though here is the way they use acoustic passages. There’s a lot more contrast between sections on this album with soft acoustic sections building the way for big epic verses creating an excellent contrast. Unfortunately I think the memorability suffers a little bit for all the beauty in transition. The hooks aren’t as pronounced on this album in general, so while the songwriting is tighter and more varied, the hooks get less attention. 

Instantly “Heavenly Coil'' is my favorite song Patrick Kern has written. Obviously I like the longer songs in general, but this one especially has so many twists and turns, not to mention the transitions are perfect. The introduction is dark and tense which juxtaposes really well against the second half and even moreso the ending. About 5 minutes in is where the song really starts to pick up with the first development section. The repetition here is used beautifully, adding layers and building up the sound with every new repeat. The dark and cold riffs of the first section give way to beautiful orchestration outlining a beautiful morning sunrise across the fields and planes of midwestern America. I can imagine Clint Eastwood riding his pale white horse across plains and valleys with the early sun slowly rising to meet him. Then at seven minutes in, the rider arrives at his destination and probably has a shootout with some outlaws. It’s not really dark enough to feel like Tombstone, more El Dorado or Silverado with the grandiose trumpets announcing a heroic victory, and the main character probably picks up his love interest and rides off into the sunset with her. This music is all about that romanticization of 19th century western America and no music I’ve ever heard has captured that feel so brilliantly. The dark riffs and harsh vocals, juxtaposed against the beautiful strings and soaring trumpet and occasionally funky organ really brings the aesthetic to life. 

I remember when I found Untamed Land initially back in 2018, it was the year of a new Summoning album which somehow always seems to lead to an explosion of new Atmospheric Black Metal in the year. Between Winds ended up being my favorite black metal album of the year and being such a huge Summoning fan I was blown away by Kern’s ability to write Summoning-esque music and add his own unique flair with the Western themes and aesthetic. About the only complaint I can really come up with for this album is; where did the organ go? There was so much organ presence on Between Winds and here it’s something that only shows up a few times, it’s great of course when it joins the party, but I could use more of it personally. Overall I cannot recommend Untamed Land enough, even if you’re not a big Summoning fan, give this a try you might like it more, especially with how pristine the production is. 

Frodo, Bourbon and Baked Beans - 89%

spookymicha666, November 24th, 2021
Written based on this version: 2021, Digital, Napalm Records

Untamed Land was a quite unknown band to me until they switched to the bigger German label Napalm Records. Behind that band name stands a one-man-project based in Ohio and before the latest output Like Creatures Seeking Their Own Form they released one full-length in 2018 called Between The Winds.

It is quite difficult to describe the music that Patrick Kern performs with Untamed Land. It is a mixture of a lot of different influences like black metal, ambient, folk and western music but it is arranged so well that it doesn't appear to be confusing or mismatching. The albums have a lot of breaks and turns that always keep the listener attracted to it and I think that you can't get bored with this stuff.

Like Creatures Seeking Their Own Form starts with a somewhat Harry Potter like intro that soon turns into a very atmospheric instrumental track with nice acoustic guitars. It appears to be a very nice invitation to explore the wilderness of the Wild West. The first real track is initiated by a harsh black metal riff but soon is framed by some western-like keyboards and guitar riffs we are used to know from Summoning. Also, the vocals remind of older Summoning releases. It seems that Frodo and his companions stumbled into a saloon called “The Prancing Pony Inn” and get some bourbon instead of beer. The western reminiscences can be found quite often in all tracks, okay no surprise if you know that Patrick likes the western topic and music. 'Clothed In Smoke' is a very doomy and atmospheric song with a lot of keyboard intermezzos, western style riffs and galloping drums that matches perfect to the western atmosphere. The longest track, 'The Heavenly Coil', is the most gripping track on the album. Here we can find some real dramatic and epic arrangements, almost like on a movie soundtrack which are combined with fast black metal elements. Sometimes the keyboards remind me of old Emperor just to be interrupted with some ambient music and some western music then (and of course the always present Summoning). The close of the track is really great, very atmospheric and rousing. You really can grip the atmosphere of the Wild West (though it never really was my cup of bourbon). So, this is a really wild trip through music styles that the listener is taken here.

To draw a conclusion about all this…I really like this album because it is so varied and never gets lost the black metal vibes that are the major agenda behind all this. But what makes it so special and interesting in my ears is the fact that Untamed Land combines so many (unusual) styles together with the black metal idea. This makes it a very diverting album that you don't get tired of after some rounds of listening. But if you don't like any experiments in your black metal soup, you better don't touch it.

Rating: 8.9 out of 10 baked beans

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