Wÿntër Ärvń – Abysses Review

My album review output in 2021 thus far has been barely admissible at best. Wading my way through through a handful of uninteresting and mediocre albums to start the year surely hasn’t helped. So when El Cuervo was looking for a neofolk fan to cover Wÿntër Ärvń’s second album Abysses, I pounced. I now regret ever questioning why I put so much blood, sweat, and tears into writing for this blog. For every 10 lukewarm albums I review, there is one gem that stands out and makes me so giddy with delight that I have the opportunity to share my experience listening to it with the rest of the AMG community. Abysses is one of those gems. Wÿntër Ärvń is a French neofolk/neoclassical duo comprised of Wÿntër Ärvń (Aorlhac) and Vittorio Sabelli (Dawn of a Dark Age). With Wÿntër Ärvń handling strings, percussion, and vocals and Sabelli responsible for clarinet and arrangements, the duo have worked together to craft a mostly acoustic instrumental album of stunning beauty.

In fifth grade, I proudly chose the clarinet, “the most metal of instruments,”1 as the instrument I would learn when joining band for the first time. I played the clarinet throughout middle school, high school (pep, concert, and marching band), and even tried out college marching band for a wee stint. The clarinet still holds a dear spot in my heart so I was completely intrigued to review an album for the blog that featured my favorite instrument growing up, especially after my bout of jealousy due to Holdeneye‘s recent review of clari-metal. When the smooth timbre of the clarinet emerged in the second track, I immediately had the urge to Prime Now some new reeds, whip out my clarinet case, and go to town like Squidward despite the fact that I haven’t practiced my embouchure in years.

On Abysses, Wÿntër Ärvń’s greatest strength is their mastery of the art of layering — not the jackets and scarves kind. The mesmerizing “Sentiero Dell’Eternita” gives me chills and the urge to cry tears of happiness nearly every time I listen to it with its hopeful interweaving melodies. Classical guitar, gentle drumming, and expressive clarinet dance together in perfect balance and harmony that ultimately results in the most gorgeous of climaxes. While I didn’t need convincing, Wÿntër Ärvń have proven that simplicity can be truly beautiful. Other favorite moments on the album come during the song “Contemplation.” Clarinet and classical guitar, which strangely reminded me of the new age poppy synthesizers of Ray Lynch’s “No Blue Thing,” start the album off. The song builds tantalizingly slow before ghostlike female vocals are added to the mix. The singer’s voice sounds like how I would imagine the wispieset of clouds might sound, as if they might evaporate into thin air if you reached out to grab them.

The clarinet doesn’t run the show the entire time on Abysses. As demonstrated by the Outlander theme song, Enya’s “Exile,” and Xandria’s “Like a Rose on the Grave of Love,” bagpipes are a lovely addition to any song. My bagpipe rule of thumb continues to hold true on Abysses with the final track “Quand Tombe le Jour.” Like the eerie, haunting call of a loon, the sound of a bagpipe tends to make my hair stand on end. I adore the interesting choice that Wÿntër Ärvń made to end the album with the heaviest song, which features intense guttural, black metal vocals. It’s a vicious ending to the otherwise patient, soft, and intricate album. The earnest bagpipes at the end left me breathless, wondering exactly what Wÿntër Ärvń are scheming next.

I must share a word of caution before folks get too excited or up in arms regarding this album. Abysses will likely not appeal to the masses. Albeit utterly beautiful, this album is largely instrumental and lacks the heaviness of most other albums featured on this blog. As a lover of modern classical and ambient instrumental music, this neofolk album with a black metal twist is right up my alley. El Cuervo, I owe you.

Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Antiq Records
Websites: antiqofficial.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/wynterarvnneofolk
Releases Worldwide: March 1st, 2021

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