If you’re in a territory like I’m in, it’s a perfect time to find a nearby forest or wooded area, grab a sturdy walking stick, and take in the beauty of winter. Snow crunching beneath your boots, the cold air filling your lungs, and the naked trees providing for a breathtaking look at the landscape you wouldn’t ordinarily get in the summer. Oh, and wear gloves. Can’t stress that enough.
What am I on about? Well, it’s always nice to have the perfect musical companion for those times, and no I don’t mean blaring Immortal while you’re on your trek, unless you plan to battle weird beasts. Instead, go for something that in itself is aligned with nature and will soundtrack your trip beautifully, like the latest album from Waldgeflüster called “Meine Fesseln.” This project’s music always works well with the elements, but none have grasped and embraced winter quite as effectively before as this new third record. Maybe some of that is because I listened to this a ton before Christmas, when we had more than a few whiteouts, but I have a feeling it’ll give me the same chills in, say, August when I’m at the beach,
If you’re new to Waldgeflüster, let’s pepper you with a little background. The project is the brainchild of Winterherz, who went out on his own in 2005 to create this music so he could send his own version of black metal into the world. His sound definitely is savage and uncompromising, but there is so much more to the music than just brutality. There’s also rustic, woodsy beauty. Waldgeflüster (which translated means “forest whispers”) released its debut album “Herbsklagen” in 2009 and followed that up with “Femundsmarka – Eine Reise in drei Kapiteln” in 2011, where he continued to build upon his musical and philosophical ambition.
But those records pale in comparison to what he accomplishes on “Meine Fesseln,” his first for mighty Bindrune Recordings and one that finds Winterherz collaborating alongside a number of notable musicians including Austin Lunn (Panopticon, Seidr, Kolga, and more) on guitar and mandolin; drummer Tobias Schuler (Fuck You and Die); Johann Becker (Austaras, Vukari) on violin, Janne Väätäinen (Haive) on kantele; Lukas Danninger (The Course Is Black) on piano; Arvagr (Dagnir en Gwann) on added vocals; and Aimo Fuchs on electronics. That may sound like a hefty array of musicians for one black metal record, but they all blend together perfectly, with Winterherz’s black visions the directional light in the dark. Anyone whose record collection contains heavy doses of Agalloch, Panopticon, Winterfylleth, and anything on the Bindrune roster is bound to be right at home with this record.
The album kicks off with “Der Nebel,” which opens with acoustic strains and folkish wonder before it ignites into a fury that includes strong, infectious melodies, vicious growling, and a sense that you want to rush outdoors and see what you’ve been missing indoors. First time I heard this song, I was gazing out my window at dusk’s red skies with a beer, and everything seemed perfect. And it was. “Karhunkierros” follows, with a similar mix as the opener, blending black metal majesty with quieter, forestal wonders. You get hammered by the sounds, that’s for sure, but you always get room to breathe as well. There’s also some pretty nice vocal tradeoffs, going from guttural to clean and back again. Nice bit of texture there. “Wie eine Weide im Wind” is my favorite cut on the record and one that really captured my imagination. Acoustic rumbling meets trickling waters, gurgly vocals eventually give way to speaking passages and cleaner singing, the melodies scream winter’s dominance, and the final minutes are so dramatic, going from clean to impossibly heavy, that you’re forced to the edge of your seat.
“Trauerweide Teil I” is the first of two dreamy, cold interludes, with rain draining downward, cleaner tones leading the way, and savagery eventually slipping back in with crunch and throaty growls. Then we’re on to “Wenn die Morgensonn…” a 9:51-long journey that is trance-inducing and a little spacey, with some similar melodies making their way back into the story, moody keys giving a psychedelic edge to the proceedings, guitar work glowing and lighting up the night sky, and the vocals as passionate as anywhere else on the record. Pianos drop in, start-stop thrashing helps the back end of the song explode, and forceful shouts push all the way to the finish, standing as the last thing you hear. “Mit welchen Fesseln,” that runs 11:53, is another interesting piece that’s full of experimentation, from New Wave-style guitar work in spots, some clean vocals, other guitars that positively soar, and massive thrashing that makes up the final few minutes of the song, leaving you in a cloud of forest campfire smoke. Finisher “Trauerweide Teil II” is the second part of the aforementioned interlude, letting the album slip out quietly, unassumingly, with more acoustic guitar work, softer vocals, piano, and a breeze of strings. It’s the ideal way to end this record, and maybe even cap off your walk in the woods.
Unless you speak German (I do not), you might have to do some translation in order to understand what’s being said, but there’s no emotional barrier when it comes to the music. It’s righteously heavy when it needs to be, positively beautiful in spots, and perfect for this time of year in North America. Waldgeflüster is a project that helps you appreciate these days and see them as glorious and freeing, and “Meine Fesseln” is a magnificent way to spend these days. I can’t stop listening to the damn thing, and if you’re in the same mindframe as I am, you’ll be in the same frost-encrusted boat.
For more on the band, go here: http://www.waldgefluester.com/
To buy the album, go here: http://eihwazrecordings.com/distro/
For more on the label, go here: http://bindrunerecordings.com/