Cult Series Day 2: UK’s Wodensthrone emit power, pure emotion on ‘Curse’

The one thing that makes me sad about summer drawing to a close, as much as I relish fall, is ferocious, drenching thunderstorms pretty much are coming to an end and should have mere cameo appearances the rest of the year. Especially from my office perch many, many floors above the city, I love watching the black curtain work its way down the river, choke out the light, and bring chaos and instability for the short time it lasts. That never gets old.

I started to think more about that when taking on “Curse,” the new album from UK black metal force Wodensthrone that follows up their excellent 2009 full-length debut “Loss” (that came out on Bindrune Recordings). The eight-track, nearly 67-minute adventure roars and crackles like a fast-brewing storm, has the ambiance like you’re being utterly drenched in precipitation, and acts as a force of nature that you can stand back and admire but certainly cannot stop in its path. The enormity and strength of this record has floored me with every visit, and I notice that I keep going back to this thing over and over and digesting it whole, despite its demanding length.

Wodensthrone’s music isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel. It’s pure, classic black metal at its heart (I always think a lot of Bathory hearing their music) with heaping doses of atmosphere, and pinches of acoustic beauty. The words are packed with meaning and personal examination, and each song has a line or two that drove me to track down the lyrics and take a closer look at what this is all about. It’s less and less common that bands these days compel me to seek out the words they’re often indecipherably hammering back at me, but Wodensthrone never seem to have a problem conveying at least part of their message so that you have a lead somewhere. As many bands of this ilk as there are these days — I’ve lost count long ago – Wodensthrone have managed to remain one of my favorites, and their albums get common airplay no matter where I am. It’s great walking music, by the way.

“Curse” is being released as part of Candlelight’s three-album Cult Series, that also contains works by Khors (who we covered yesterday) and Reverence (stop back tomorrow). Of the three, this band has the best chance of becoming a sweeping force across the underground metal world, and while it does take a commitment to absorb their albums, it’s an investment of time you will not feel is wasted. “Curse” is a hunker-down, shut-out-the-lights, explore-your-soul type of production, and I find I get the most out of it when paying it undivided attention. In addition, this five-member, pseudonym-embracing band clearly is getting better as they go along, as they’ve managed to eclipse their debut album, itself an incredibly affecting record that’s only gotten better with age. So you can imagine how good, well-played, and enrapturing “Curse” truly is.

After a clean intro “The Remaining Few,” it’s right into the surging and exciting “Jormungandr,” a song that’s full of melody and adventure, tackling the Norse mythological sea serpent that is the great enemy of Thor. This song contains some of the record’s few cleanly sung parts, and everything here works wonders to get blood flowing and your mind racing. “First Light” has a gazey introduction before it roughens up. The emotion and majesty are there in full, and some folk flourishes eventually find their way into the song. It’s impossible not to get caught up in the spirit of this song and its true human depth. “The Great Darkness” then lets things get ugly, as ominous tones are present, pure black metal heathen shrieks are unleashed, and galloping violence overtakes everything, running headlong into “Battle Lines.” This track is the perfect armies-building type of song, as you practically can imagine Middle Age soldiers gathering their gear and preparing for what could be their final battle. “And so it has come to this, and thus we are undone,” is observed almost as if the narrator cannot do anything to stop the carnage ahead, the price that has been paid, and the curse over their heads, and the song eventually softens following the bloodshed, with soft acoustics and synth mist.

“Wyrgþu,” if you listen closely, has some lushness behind the heaviness and is passionate, but it also erupts and pours out buckets of classic black metal lava. “The Storm,” which was released as a single earlier in the year, is the shortest track at 5:58 and also one of the most savage of the bunch. Closer “The Name of the Wind” runs 13:28 and runs the gamut of emotion and metallic variety, opening softer with some acoustic backing, before kicking into damn-near sing-along-style growling, a total caterwaul of sonic beauty, and heartfelt cries such as, “The gods speak my name.” There seems to be a reference back to Jormungandr and of ultimate victory and overcoming odds, giving the record a triumphant conclusion.

Wodensthrone is one of the most exciting new black metal bands out of the millions of like-minded acts out there, and two records into their career, they’ve already proven themselves a major force. “Curse” will benefit from Candlelight being behind it, but it also should help the band find a larger throng of admirers based on its epic glory. This is a fantastic record, one of the best atmospheric black metal albums this year.

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