posted on 9/2010 By:
Whether it’s because of my own personal tastes in breakneck-speed black metal, or the fact that there’s so much of it out there to listen to, an album like Wolfshade’s newest, When Above…, has stood out like smashed big toe in comparison to the raging likes of Otargos, Krieg, and Haeresiarchs Of Dis which are currently slotted into my reservation grid. Formerly a one-man project consisting solely of founder Kadhass, but now also featuring an individual called Samigina helping to assist in the proceedings, this French outfit inhabits a region that doesn’t rely on an overabundance of blastbeats or proudly display anti-Christian values on their sleeves. Instead, this is a much less angry type of despondency to deal with, where the contrast of a tortured voice and flickering acoustics makes for an often testy, tenuous listen.
I can hear elements of restrained Veil, Silencer, and Burzum along with traces of Agalloch, mostly with the way Kadhass frequently emits throaty high-pitched dry screams over depressingly melodic guitars which would rather kill softly instead of disemboweling you outright. There are times during tunes like “Ex Nihilo” where I almost expected the tempo to rapidly change to something much faster, but that increase in speed and white-knuckled tremolo never erupts into anything further than a slight livening of the pace. It’s also during this second track that Wolfshade shows off some very nice psychedelic leads, an element utilized to impressive effect at other various points throughout the disc. There’s also a great focusing on the drums as a centerpiece, which “Bene Elohim” does so damn well with the percussion taking center stage, as well as providing a great backbone for the closing leads to play off of.
With the exception of the very short “?ðïêáôÜóôáóéò” which opens the album, the remaining six tracks all pass the six-minute mark, each of them going through different changes in mood with some moments winding up more successful than others. From the midpoint on during “Au Tombeau Des Illusions” is a prime example of a 10+ minute tune making the absolute most of its running length by eating up the time effortlessly with well-balanced songwriting, and doing a fair job of keeping bland filler melodies to a minimum. All the while, it’s Kadhass who is fully in control of the mood with his piercing (but rarely domineering) vocals, and as the album progresses through the latter tracks, his performance becomes increasingly impassioned and forceful. It wasn’t something I really picked up on until the third listen or so, but “ Le Réfugié des Passions” is when it becomes the most apparent that his mood has definitely taken a turn for the worse.
The production choices are fantastic by allowing the quieter parts to stay a bit quieter, without the constant need to keep everything at the same loudness, although there are relatively calmer parts that do put a lot of emphasis on each of those sparsely-picked notes. During “Incipit Vita Nova” those poor vocal chords are put through the wringer when the full scream is in effect, but it’s also the least taxing track by emphasizing a much cleaner spoken word section that gives the song a measure on humanity, and it finishes things on a decent note by coming to a decisive end, if not somewhat unremarkably when placed against the rest of the tune.
Coming in at a well-contained forty-seven minute run time without a single blastbeat within earshot, the doomlike pacing increases the melancholy Wolfshade attempts to impart, and admirably, about 60% of it works pretty well in maintaining interest even at a crawl. There’s little to separate the tracks from one another, and unfortunately the less compelling segments are quite forgettable by the time it’s over with, but next to beasts like Sun In The House Of The Scorpion, and The Isolationist, When Above... directs a good temporary trip through much less violent waters, but it's not really a journey I'd say is mandatory to repeat too often.
Register to post comments.