Thanks to the black-blood scourge of N00bs endlessly spewing from the mouth of the Angry Metal Umbrella Corporation©, the promo pile has become a tragic sight to behold. The once bountiful expanse has been ravaged into the carrion-sculpted entity that now shambles before me. Thus, selecting albums for review has forced me to break out the knuckle dusters in order to get my hands on something of actual merit. After I brushed a few beta reviewers aside, I settled on Germany’s Werian and their debut Animist. The band’s name comes from an old Germanic word for the transformation of man into wolf. A fitting moniker, as the album’s themes detail some of the world’s most deeply rooted supernatural and religious perspectives. To this end, the collective eschews stringent genre tropes in favor of a combination of doom and a subtle element of black metal that serves to catalyze this shamanic sojourn. The quality is evident, but there remains a question of quantity.
Interestingly, I can’t find a single piece of information pertaining to the group’s identity. All I can be sure of is that Werian is an outfit consisting of three members, and apparently a trio who would rather let their material do the talking. Frankly, I find that infinitely preferable to the litany of necro-nomenclature currently drowning the blackened genres. Animist itself also boasts a triptych of three tracks, but whose length runs deep enough to constitute an entire album. “Hex” is the first and shortest song at a comparatively lean thirteen minutes. The sense of narrative inherent in Animist is immediate as the song takes its time to lay a foundation and steadily build on it with small but perceptible crescendos. Occult rock-infused chords slowly climb to an impending pace all backed with samples of inclement weather. The psychedelic touches help flesh the song out and it succeeds in outlining one man’s excursion into the metaphysical. Like a freshly expelled Cain bitterly throwing paradise to his back and venturing east of Eden so as to crack wide the celestial vault and rake there for secret knowledge.
Animist never truly falters. But, as with all projects of similar scope, the ever-expanding song lengths soon become counter-productive. “Blade of Heresy” begins with almost two superfluous minutes of supposedly evocative atmospherics. What makes it even more unfortunate is that Werian are clearly adept at smooth transitions. This pseudo-intro just feels tacked on in comparison to the fluidity of the album’s thematic changes. The track eventually showcases a much heavier set of riffs and opts for some trem-picking inside the doom tempo. As enjoyable as it is, the natural conclusion lands around the ten-minute mark. While the remaining four minutes aren’t clumsy, they are just repetitions of earlier sections. Animist‘s finale, “March Through Ruins,” exacerbates these same criticisms. Unsurprising, at nearly eighteen minutes long. The song itself is gorgeous and provides the perfect fusion of the previous tracks. A focus on hard riffing segues into an immersive introspection indicative of Kyuss‘ “Whitewater.” However, a solid five minutes of indulgence could easily be excised for a much more succinct and engaging climax.
Animist was recorded in a live setting, using only analog devices so as to foster a more organic experience to better conduct these forays into consciousness. The album sounds stunning and the mix is equal to the task. The bass dutifully resounds by the side of the retro guitars which strike just the right balance between bile and psychedelia. Occasionally, hoarse growls emanate up from behind the instrumentation. Although I suspect the album could well get by as an instrumental, the sparse use of choral harmonies does add a certain grandeur to their sequences.
As a lycanthropic excursion that journals the coalescence of the nature of man and beast, Animist is a success. The record’s blackened edge affords the material a real sense of the wilderness, both physical and spiritual, which is where Werian truly excel. The album is an often seamless combination of its genres, but there remain some pitfalls to overcome. Overt song-length is never an appropriate tool to engineer depth and it seems especially frustrating given the quality the band is so clearly capable of. As such, this isn’t a casual experience. But, if long-form music isn’t your thing, I still strongly suggest you, too, breathe deep the sky and heed the call of the wild. Lest you unjustly write Animist off.