Wildernessking is a great band. Their sounds is well-developed, nuanced, interesting and even back to when they were Heathens, they had a choke-hold on the craft of song writing. That they continue to develop and have not garnered the attention of the big(ger) labels who should be clamoring to support them surprises me. Is it because they’re from South Africa and can’t be expected to tour? Is it because the world is riddled with unequal chances and they haven’t gotten in front of the right eyes? Or is it because Angry Metal Guy didn’t get his ass in gear and review the band’s EP The Devil Within, the second follow-up to the band’s remarkable debut The Writing of Gods in the Sand? As a man with an inflated-enough sense of self to believe that starting a blog to air his opinion out on the Internet was something that everyone would be dying to read, we’ll go with the latter. So I’m here to make amends. And I’ll start with a TL;DR: buy this.
If you need more words to convince you, I’ll put it like this: The Devil Within continues Wildernessking‘s stretch of engaging, atmospheric black metal production that started back in 2010—albeit under a different moniker. While the band certainly lands far more in the Agalloch or Enslaved camp now than they did on their early black n’ roll work, what has continually set them apart is how well-balanced and well-composed their music is. Wildernessking succeeds at blending moody melancholy with subtle melody, the songs can be slow to develop but they’re always layered and, most of all, addictive. The production, which drowns out Keenan’s bass because it’s too densely mastered (DR7), still has a natural sound and a (pretty) balanced mix. This sound places the band nearer Portland than Oslo, and is topped off with luscious guitar tone and airy production.
The Devil Within is only three tracks; opener “Lurker,” which starts as a slow build that almost feeds directly into second track “Flesh,” is a driving wall of sound which ranges between Alcest and Marduk in feel. “Flesh”—the strongest of the three—starts off with a late-Enslaved groove. This middle track is so hooky, despite its atmospheric side, that it stuck out immediately and has kept me circling back through repeated listens. The final track, “The Devil Within,” is an epic that clocks in at 10 minutes long. While Wildernessking‘s biggest weakness has been a tendency to get a little long-winded—see: “Discovery“—even at 10 minutes the title track entranced me to the last second and sent me back to press play all over again. Few records—EPs or otherwise—inspire that kind immediate drive to hear more.
Wildernessking is my favorite black metal band right now. They produce metal of the utmost quality, and as they continue to develop their own sound they exude a savvy and confidence beyond their years. The Devil Within is the closest thing to perfect that an EP can be; it entrances me now while whetting the appetite for 2015’s coming full length. I cannot wait.