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Alpine Fog - 89%

dystopia4, December 7th, 2017

Wędrujący Wiatr's sophomore full length O turniach, jeziorach i nocnych szlakach (hereafter referred to as "this album" for reasons of laziness), is one of the most talked about atmospheric black metal albums in recent memory and for good reason. For this Polish band, atmosphere is the whole of the law. There's no particular riff that sticks out in my mind after the album's duration has come to an end; hell, there's not even particular songs I'd refer to as highlights. This is a sit back, listen to it the whole way through and let the atmosphere seep into your psyche sort of deal.

This album possesses a misty alpine atmosphere realized through fuzzy repetitious tremolo, ethereal synths, woodsy neo-folk and rickety blasts. If anything, Wędrujący Wiatr's black metal resonates more with the Slavic school than their native Polish scene. Much like early Drudkh, they use fuzz-drenched waves of rolling distortion to create a hypnotic effect. Of course, with atmospheric black metal there is a fine line between hypnotic and boring and the band thankfully knows how to stay on the right side of that line. I love how rickety the blast beats feel here, it's a style that I feel works very well with atmospheric black metal. As for the vocals, they kind of sit between black metal rasps and a deep bellow. They are not far off from the vocals on Nokturnal Mortum's magnum opus The Voice of Steel

It's the little atmospheric touches that really make this album tower over its peers. You've got the expected ethereal synth parts, but there's this tone they sometimes use that sounds almost like church bells and it just fits the atmosphere so well. Low chanting vocals are sometimes used, and while subtle, they really help set the tone. There's a fair amount of neo-folkish woodsy acoustic stuff, which they pull off much better than the majority of black metal bands that go this route.I'd say it's a pretty even amalgamation of the acoustic stuff from early Ulver and the neo-folk group Nest. While the album would still be good if they stuck primarily to black metal and left out the bells and whistles, the little things can really add up in atmospheric black metal. I can close my eyes while listening to this and it's practically like I'm back in the Rockies on a foggy morning.

As far as atmospheric black metal goes, Wędrujący Wiatr make little tweaks to a well-used formula and end up with stellar results. This album is pure atmosphere; no standout riffs, no standout songs, just one engrossing journey from start to finish. The neo-folk and ambient textures work wonderfully, and the black metal itself is hypnotic. It reminds heavily of the Slavic black metal scene (especially Ukraine), but has its own unique character. This is easily one of the best atmospheric black metal albums in recent years.