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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.

Ethereal Majesty - 85%

tahu157, December 5th, 2017
Written based on this version: 2016, Digital, Independent (Bandcamp)

Do you ever listen to something and suddenly find yourself transported to another world? Have you ever felt like an album was able to paint a sonic landscape that you felt like you could see even though it was made of sound? That is a pretty sappy way to view music, I know. However, every once in a while a band will pop up on my radar that truly does give put vivid images in my head with their music. Wędrujący Wiatr are one of these bands.

Now, in the past I have knocked black metal bands for being all about the atmosphere and not balancing that with any significant amount new, interesting, or innovative musicianship. I have to confess that I also have that complaint of this album, to a degree. As far as instrumentation goes there really is nothing on this album that has not been done before. You get pretty standard atmospheric black metal riffing and drumming throughout the album. There are no solos to speak of. The production is intentionally hazy. On the whole instrumentation is all very standard and safe. Competent and solid, but not new. On paper this album is not much different from any other black metal record of similar sound.

HOWEVER, in this case in particular I do not really mind. As I mentioned above, this album, through its atmosphere, vividly paints images and scenes. The band translate the title of the album to "Of mountains, lakes and nightly paths" and those scenes and images are exactly what pop into the head of the listener. As cheesy as it sounds I feel like I've spent the night awake and walking through the woods until the crack of dawn after having listened through this album in its entirety. I can see the paths and the trees. I can feel the wind and the chilly air. It all seems very real and I honestly cannot say that many albums or bands can capture the imagination like that.

Amongst the various bands of the nature themed black metal niche, Wędrujący Wiatr are in a class of their own. They are powerful and evocative, pensive and reflective, sobering and emotional all at once. Few black metal acts are able to hold my attention, but with their mastery of atmosphere I think Wędrujący Wiatr will be one of the elite few that stick around in my memory.