Wodensthrone are a black metal band based in the U.K. Curse is their sophomore effort, following Loss which was released on Bindrue Records approximately three years ago. That release attracted the attention of Candlelight, and this is their first record with their new label.
Black metal and folk metal are tightly entwined in many ways, but also also have a fraught relationship. Both are often inspired my the beauty or bleakness of the natural world and frequently use pagan symbolism and iconography. Both also have a strong sense of atmosphere. Back metal and folk metal often locate themselves in very different positions when it comes to aggression, however, and while this is certainly not a hard rule, folk metal usually goes for a more celebratory or wistful tone, whereas black metal tends to prefer searing anger and violence. Wodensthrone occupy a unique location in the liminal space between these two extremes, and prove to be equally comfortable evoking the quivering vibrancy of a spring vine putting out new shoots and the cold, viciousness of a hailstorm. With Curse, they brilliantly embody the capriciousness of the natural environment, and in doing so have created a lovely, exciting black metal album.
Wodensthrone avoid relying on a filthy, corrupted recording style to sound primitive or raw. The production quality is unobtrusive, generally clear, nothing fancy. My main criticism is aimed at the drums, which cam come across a little clicky and flat at times. However, they did manage to get a lot of variation out of the guitar tone, which was clearly the focus, so that the strings are sometimes a gelid assault and at others warm and forgiving. The band rely primarily on harsh vocals, but often go through extended instrumental passages that allow moments of sweetness to rise to the surface when black metal shrieking would have obliterated them. This is simple production but intelligently deployed, and it makes a difference.
The track “First Light” is nothing short of beautiful, filled with the sounds of meltwater and birdsong. The shimmering guitar tones echo the quality of light filtering though leaves in some quiet grotto, creating a sense of deep intimacy and calling up the sacredness of nature. Then, “The Great Darkness” makes much greater use of synth as well as more dynamic and powerful drumming. This combined with the spoken-word style vocals and huge basslines has the feel of an invocation. Throughout the album, Wodensthrone prove over and over that their range both allows for tender newness and fragility, as well as fire-and-brimstone, swarming heaviness.
Curse is a great record. Creative, passionate, it is full of both generative and destructive energy. Nature can be as harsh and deadly as it can be transcendentally beautiful, and Wodensthrone do an expert job of capturing that unpredictability, that wildness in Curse. A brave and compelling album, sure to challenge and satisfy.