Despite operating out of a state best known for metrosexual men wearing fake tans and engaging in post-modern mating dances for sultry females, Windfaerer prizes the mythology of the Iberian Peninsula and pays homage to such ancestry. Tenebrosum is derived from the Latin for “darkness” and with Spanish song titles, they certainly target a higher-brow audience than the aforementioned gentlemen. As Windfaerer‘s sophomore full-length, it delivers the blackened folk metal already established in their repertoire, but with greater diversity on display this time around. I thoroughly enjoyed 2012’s EP Solar, and was hoping for a continuation of form.
The greatest stylistic differentiation from Solar is the more overt death influences. Tenebrosum still largely derives its extremity from black metal, but the opening to “Finisterra” strongly recalls In Flames with a simply awesome dual-guitar transition from 1:33. “Morir en el Olvido” sounds similarly drawn from Gothenburg in the 90’s. The opening to “Tales Told in Oblivion” could have been lifted from any number of modern death metal bands, mid-paced and strong in percussion by comparison to the band’s blackened roots. Indeed, the passage from 1:40 in “The Outer Darkness” bears the mentality, density and dissonance typical of the new wave of extreme music fronted by such bands as Ulcerate and Altar of Plagues.
Reinforcing their folk influences however, Tenebrosum has borrowed Ne Obliviscaris‘s violist, Tim. While their prior work sporadically utilizes backing strings, the violin undertakes a lot of melodic heavy-lifting here, soaring over chugging rhythms and harmonizing effectively on such tracks as “Santería” and “The Everlasting.” The second half of “The Everlasting” is one of the strongest passages on the record, with powerful trem-picked riffing transitioning into a beautiful harmony with the best violin melody.
Despite these multiple sounds at work, Tenebrosum feels cohesive. The song-writing circumnavigates repetition by undergoing breakdowns just as singular sections may be wearing thin, re-energizing towards authoritative conclusions. This simplistic yet compelling structure is notable on “Celestial Supremacy” and “Finisterra.” The overall pacing is spot-on too, opening with an indicator of Windfaerer‘s core style in “Celestial Supremacy,” diversifying with the more deathy material, returning to blackened folk around the mid-point, then closing with the interestingly different “The Outer Darkness.” Not enough can be said for the satisfaction to be found in complete albums, especially since Tenebrosum is an ideal 48 minutes in length.
However, there is one aspect which really pulls the record down: the production. While the DR score of 7 may not seem terrible, it sounds way worse than this. Individual guitar tracks do not have sufficient breathing room as lines cross and intricacies are lost on all but the most committed listener. Guitar and vocal leads don’t pop and I barely noticed the percussive work on first listen since it’s so buried. Extending listening sessions can be wearisome which lets down the excellent song-writing towards the end of the album. On a more subjective note, I also prefer the production aesthetic utilized on Solar, which is closer to traditional black metal. While not super old-school, it bore ‘buzzier’ guitar tones, whereas I feel like the modern approach to the guitars and drums here contributes to the fatiguing aspect of the music.
As I grow further into metal and I begin to recognize styles which suit me best, I’m becoming increasingly aware that I fall right into Windfaerer‘s target demographic. Tenebrosum fuses blackened extremity with folky subtlety into a very compelling package which I can thoroughly recommend to any fan of black metal, transcending New Jersey’s tool-infested shores. The production comes as a significant caveat and ensures that this isn’t my favorite Windfaerer release, but the prospect of a return to Solar‘s dynamics with Tenebrosum‘s diversity excites me for the future.
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320kbps MP3
Websites: windfaerer.com/ | Facebook.com/Windfaerer
Releases Worldwide: September 22th 2015