Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Wodensthrone - Loss (Bindrune Recordings, 2009)

Back in the late 7th century AD, Wodensthrone's hometown of Sunderland, England became a major center of learning in Anglo-Saxon England, home to the 300-volume Wearmouth-Jarrow monastery and its famous monk-historian Bede. Just last year, Sunderland was named the best-connected city in Britain. Not much has changed in 1300 years, eh? While modern Mackems should rightly be proud of their continued tradition of access to knowledge (a tradition tied to the advent of Christianity), Wodensthrone extol the virtues of pre-Christianized England -- a time no less bloody than the centuries that followed, but also a one during which heathen civilizations, immigrated from what is now Germany and Scandinavia, lived in concert with the land and defended their divergent bloodlines.

"LeĆ³deum On Lande"

The title of Wodensthrone's debut long-player (and at nearly 70 minutes, it is truly a long-player) is crystal clear: these boys pine for Britain's pagan antiquity. Their lyrics speak of ancient battles and fallen ancestors, invoke pagan gods and insult invading ones ("Children of the crescent moon / Your desert god is silent here...And 'pon these rocks which aeons stood / Are carved the names of forgotten gods: Tiw! Thunor! Woden!"). In their complete slack-jawed seriousness, these guys are the anti-Korpiklaani. Even if these tunes aren't proper for ale-swinging, and your own sense of nostalgia runs more towards mommy's home-cooking than Northumbrian history, you gotta admire Wodensthrone's commitment to their themes.

"Black Moss (excerpt)"

Musically speaking, Loss has nearly everything one could ask of a pagan black metal release. Battle-ready blasts and keyboard beds summon the pagan vastlands, galloped over by tremolo guitars in fully tonal flurries. Frontman Brunwulf sounds more like he's cawing from atop a Sunderland tree than shrieking like a ring-wraith from someone else's mythology. Like fellow pagan black metal artisans Moonsorrow and Wolves In the Throne Room (interviewed here), spiritual and artistic cousins to Wodensthrone both, Loss revels in the epic and the tonal. Admittedly, oscillating two-chord harmonies don't hold up by themselves over ten-minute expanses -- "Black Moss," with its occasional tritone-ridden darkness, deeper growls and breaks into non-black riff territory, is the only track that really bristles with tension. Smartly, Wodensthrone take up the slack of their pretty humdrum harmonic landscape by keeping the texture dynamic. Keyboards drop out, flutes and acoustic guitars pop in during restful moments; Jew's harp and dulcimers join in for the instrumental "Pillar of the Sun." Harmony vocals and Celtic drumbeats supplant the harshness and automated blasts every now and again to enhance the drama.

"Under These Stones (excerpt)"

Recorded in Romania by two members of Negura Bunget, Loss sounds warm and huge, but not oppressively so. The effect is one of glory that's veiled but still apparent. It's a great complement to Wodensthrone's nostalgic fondness for Old Albion.



Aculpanosh said...

Are there black metal bands which celebrate witchcraft? This pagan thing swings many ways...

Helm said...

Hm, the samples did not grab me immediately... the riffery seems a bit explored before, but this might be a grower. Thanks for the find.

Anonymous said...

They are celebrating Paganism as an ancient indigenous religion. Not as some new age wizardry bullshit as its known for today.