Canadian black metal crushers Wendess mix chaos, imagination into melody-rich album ‘MLMXXIII’

wendessDespite the stupid, embarrassing riches I have as a writer who is inundated with new music on a daily basis, it’s actually quite easy to miss something really good. So, while we try to keep this site going forward with things that have just come out or on the horizon, now and again we have to go back and cover something we missed.

One of those things is “MMXXIII,” the new record from Quebec-based black metal band Wendess. Part of the reason we didn’t have something on this when it was released a few weeks ago is because this self-released monster never actually made it to the inbox and instead was discovered as a result of some strong recommendations and an eventual purchase on Bandcamp. The band’s sound, while black metal at its base, goes other places, allowing for some psychedelic winds, folk-led playing, and guttural emotion to make its way into the music. Comprised of Keven (vocals and guitars), Alex (bass) GIa Hoi (prince des douze royaumes) (guitars), and Огњен (vocals, drums, and percussion), the band swings back into the world for the first time since their monstrous 2011 effort “Nuee Noire” and a 2012 split with Defest. There’s not a ton else out there about the band, which is fine and refreshing.

The record starts quietly and unassumingly on “Dystopie,” with the music trickling gently but eventually erupting into thunderous melody. Keven’s wrenching growls are all over the place, scraping the track with feeling, and later, organs slip underneath the chaos, strong soloing finds its way in, and the song bleeds away. “Identité Dissociative” changes things up, threading a folk path through the song, even amid the blood-curdling howls. Dark, creaky power kicks in, with the song going emotionally bloody. Later, the song heads into prog territory dashed with rustic elements, but then it rumbles again, with strong guitar work fading into serenity. “Sommeil Profond” starts clean before choked shrieks pierce, and the heaviness arrives in giant waves. Great leads head through, firing up the song’s base, and later things get dark and even a little surfy. Every element then explodes, with growls strangling and smeary soloing bringing the track to its end. “Le Marchand D’âmes” has piano dripping and acoustic guitars, but it’s not long until the energy erupts. Wild howls penetrate, with the song flowing forward, the cut fading into darkness, and keys bringing things to a soft finish.

“Nostalgie Nocturne” also starts quietly, but then black metal-style melodies arrive, and desperate wails cut into flesh. The track boils in place for a stretch, with wild soloing blasting in and taking over the pace. Feral growls seem to indicate there’s no end to the madness, and despite a brief foray back into acoustics, that’s pretty much the case until the song ends. “Sans Raison” begins with a Charles Manson quote from a 1989 interview, where, when asked to describe himself in a sentence, he responds he’s “nobody.” The track crunches quickly, pounding away, with the guitars swelling and scorching. The melodies remind me of early fall, when greens just start to turn orange, and anguish begins to fall like a heavy storm. The intensity drives down until it fades into quiet keys. “Forêt Maudite” is a bizarre, warped instrumental that feels like something from the “Twilight Zone.” It hypnotizes and swirls, pulling in damaged “Over the Rainbow” lines and Manson’s “nobody” returning and spinning around your head, surely to induce panic. Closing instrumental “8916” (“8913” and “8915” are tracks from their two earlier albums) closes things out, with a slow-driving burn, a thick bassline for a spine, and a fascinating exploration that envelops your mind and drives you out toward the stars.

It may have taken some exploration, but I’m happy to have found my way to “MMXXIII,” this great new piece from Wendess. Striking out on their own without label support is a bold move, especially with a record this strong, so it might take this album time to stretch out. But anything worth its while will do that, and once Wendess make their way to you, prepare to go on an explosive journey that’s equal parts terrifying and enthralling.

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