Wachenfeldt – Faustian Reawakening Review

Just over three years ago, I lost my damn mind over Wachenfeldt‘s debut album The Interpreter. I gushed so mightily over its symphonic, thrashened, blackened death metal that hazardous material mitigation crews are still working around the clock to clean up the contamination. That record executed its dark mission so well that it eventually became my Album ‘o the Year for 2019, so if I said that its successor was my most anticipated album of 2022, it would be a gargantuan understatement. In the meantime, I’ve eagerly watched as main man Thomas von Wachenfeldt has taken part in the revitalization of classic Swedish death metal band Wombbath, his songwriting chops and multi-instrumental virtuosity helping to launch that band beyond mere genre relevance into genre dominance as evidenced by 2021’s Agma. As follows any mountaintop experience, there’s been a certain amount of trepidation as the release date for Wachenfeldt‘s Faustian Reawakening quickly approaches: how can it possibly live up to the greatness of the original? Let’s see if my worry is at all justified.

It wasn’t just Wachenfeldt‘s thrashier Behemoth, blackier Morbid Angel, or deathier Testament sound that wowed me on the debut, it was the band’s ability to craft long, epic songs that remain infinitely listenable, not unlike a band that Wachenfeldt unashamedly worships: Metallica.12 Wachenfeldt’s experience performing and composing both classical and folk music has informed his love of metal, giving his songs a unique, well-rounded flavor that few heavy bands could hope to match. Lead single and album opener “Primaeval Order” immediately demonstrates that little has changed for the band sonically. The track’s beefy death/thrash base is bolstered by subtle symphonic flourishes, and that restraint when it comes to the album’s more unconventional elements is consistent throughout the album.

While Faustian Reawakening swings between atmosphere and pure savagery, like most of my favorite extreme metal albums, it nails the balance between the two aspects. The faster tracks like “Primaeval Order,” “Contemporary Eschatology, ” and brutal closer “Where Everything Ends” may sink their hooks into you immediately, but the album’s true genius reveals itself over many listens. The furious black metal of the title track pairs incredibly well with the crushing folk-tinged “Halsu” that follows, and although both eclipse the seven-and-a-half minute mark, both are packed with enough nuance, beauty, and unhinged aggression to amaze upon each play-through. “Fertilize the Soil” is a timely arrival, its gnarly description of an ancient war of the gods has been the soundtrack to all of my yardwork for the past few weeks.3 The brief “Interlude – Incipiens in Finim” is worth a mention thanks to Wachenfeldt’s violin taking center stage as he improvises over some acoustic guitar from second guitarist Daniel Jakobsson.

Faustian Reawakening doesn’t quite match up to The Interpreter in my opinion, but it’s not really a drop-off either. Sure, two of the tracks (“Become Who You Are” and “The Warrior Mounds”) are merely very good next to the true greatness of the others, but the whole album—all eight tracks and 53 minutes of it—provides an engrossing journey that’s easily repeatable. That repeatability is mostly due to the compositional prowess on display, but the performances don’t hurt either. Wachenfeldt has solidified himself as one of my favorite death metal vocalists, the amazing guitar work from Wachenfeldt and Jakobsson consistently dazzles, and drummer Jon Skäre sounds like he’s intent on pounding his kit into dust. The record is best enjoyed as a whole, but highlights would be “Primaeval Order,” “Faustian Reawakening,” Halsu,” “Contemporary Eschatology,” “Fertilize the Soil,” “Interlude,” and “Where Everything Ends.”

Whatever apprehension I felt coming into Faustian Reawakening was obliterated after the first listen. Thomas von Wachenfeldt is a musical genius, and his compositions bring a fresh, homegrown authenticity to the blackened death realm. His namesake band joins other Swedish acts like In Aphelion and Grand Harvest as they lay siege to my potential year-end list.

Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: ~260 kbps VBR mp3
Label: Threeman Recordings
Websites: wachenfeldt.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/wachenfeldtband | wachenfeldtband.com
Releases Worldwide: May 6th, 2022

Show 3 footnotes

  1. The band released several cover tunes with the advance tracks leading up to this album’s release. All are worth hearing, but their version of Metallica‘s “Orion” is especially amazing thanks to Wachenfeldt’s violin work.
  2. Whether intentionally or not, Faustian Reawakening seems to be laid out like a tribute to Master of Puppets. Eight tracks and 53 minutes, thrashing bookend tracks, title track in second position, subdued crusher and near-ballad in 3rd and 4th respectively, instrumental as penultimate track, etc.
  3. You’re damn right I imagined my Scotts broadcast spreader was distributing pieces of dead god throughout my lawn.
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