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Wednesday, 2 October 2019

Reviews: Wolcensmen, Monolord, Lowcaster, Lindy-Fay Hella (Paul H, Matt & Rich)

Wolcensmen: Fire In The White Stone (Indie Recordings) [Paul Hutchings]

Having bought the original limited edition CD of debut album Songs From The Fyrgen in 2017, I have to admit that the re-release last year passed me by and when Fire In The White Stone arrived I hastily retraced my steps and purchased the additional EP that accompanied the re-release, Songs From The Mere. It also prompted me to refresh my musical memory about the original album, which I gave top marks to back in 2017. Now we have Dan Capp’s sophomore full-length release, 11 brand new dark folk hymns of a mythological nature. For this release Capp forged a story, crossing traditional archetypes with his own philosophical explorations, before composing a concept album using new and archived musical ideas. To accompany the folktale, Capp added a 12,000-word short story to accompany the music. “As a listener, I prefer the journey of a cohesive album, and as a writer I prefer to have some kind of larger framework for my lyrics.”

Fire In The White Stone’s story takes the spirit of Tolkien, Wagner and the Grail mythos. Without revealing the story here, what we have is a multi-layered story which supplements the music and lyrics which are as evocative and immersive as the previous release. Produced by John A Rivers (Dead Can Dance), Fire In the White Stone features a host of guest contributions from Jo Quail (cello), Aslak Tolonen of Nest (kantele) and Jake Rogers of Visigoth/Gallowbraid (flute), as well as Julie Russell on backing vocals and fellow Winterfylleth members Chris Naughton (choir) and Mark Deeks (Keyboards). Wolcensmen is all about atmosphere, and the combination of instruments provides another unusual and captivating album.

More synths add texture, on tracks such as Hunted, which also combines classical guitar and percussion to capture the full effect. Tension, drama and emotion feature on every song, from the lengthy Lorn And Loath and title track, to the delicious 50 seconds of The Woodwose, a delicate acoustic instrumental which segues perfectly into the thrilling Of Thralls And Throes. In absorbing himself completely in this project, Capp has managed to deliver an album that excels in dedication, artistry and perfection. Submerse yourself into this album. Once more the rewards are there to be had. 9/10

Monolord: No Comfort (Relapse Records) [Paul Hutchings]

Gothenburg doom trio return with album number 4, the follow up to 2017’s excellent Rust. No Comfort sits very much in the same vein as their previous offerings, full of fuzzed down tuned guitar and bass, lengthy forages and exploratory passages which allow you time to immerse yourself into the darkness of their world. Six tracks and 47 minutes long, you know what you are going to get, and it starts in familiar style with a nine-minute piece, The Bastard Son which contains everything you would want. Thunderously heavy, the band move into a shorter track The Last Leaf, a sledgehammer of a song which crushes with its sheer intensity.

Plenty of underlying melody, some blistering guitar work from vocalist and guitarist Thomas Jäger which is underpinned by the rock-solid engine room of Mika Häkki and Esben Willems. Larvae begins with a more conciliatory tone, a gentle guitar intro which is quickly joined by crashing bass and drums. Monolord is a band that knows how to do what they do very well. It’s slow, powerful and at times impressively oppressive. With a headline set to come at Hard Rock Hell Doom and Stoner very soon, this album reinforces that Monolord are deserving of their status of headline material. 8/10

Lowcaster: Flames Arise (Ripple Music) [Matt Bladen]

This is an interesting album, equal parts heavy, doom and prog, Flames Arise is the second album from these San Franciscan riff monsters and it's the sound of the band coming out of loss and tragedy. They have come out of these troubles a much more impressive unit. The band are a four piece Jason Bridges - Guitar & Vocals, Marc Brandi - guitar & vocals, Dean LaVoie - drums and Dave Silva - bass and their music veers between numerous soundscapes to provide you with a very cohesive and intriguing album. For every knuckle dragging riff, there's a dreamy ambient element that breaks up the raw abrasiveness of their sludge assault. At just 7 tracks long you may think it's a short album but Flames Arise is long player for sure meaning every track is full of expression letting things build properly. Flames Arise is the sound of a band moving on from their trauma into creativity. 7/10

Lindy-Fay Hella: Seafarer (Ván Records) [Rich Oliver]

Seafarer is the debut album by Norwegian singer Lindy-Fay Hella who is best known for her work with Viking folk act Wardruna. Whilst Seafarer is a continuation of her work with Wardruna it is very much its own unique album with a variety of different sounds and very much an avant-garde feel to it. The vocals by Lindy-Fay herself are of course the driving factor of this album being both ethereal, haunting and otherworldly. There are also deep shamanic style backing vocals which are provided by none other than black metal legend Gaahl. Musically although very folk influenced and with plenty of traditional folk instrumentation this isn’t simply a female led Wardruna with veers into progressive, avant-garde and art pop territories with use of keyboards and electronics. It’s hard to describe exactly what Seafarer is other than a fantastically eclectic album. The title is very appropriate as the album has a vast yet isolating sound very much encapsulating being alone out in the ocean. If you like Wardruna but are open to music of a more experimental nature then this is very much an album you should hear. Magical and enthralling. 8/10

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