Metal4Africa.com » » Wildernessking – The Writing of Gods in the Sand Review
Living in Cape Town, I have been fortunate enough to see the evolution of Heathens growing into the creature that is Wildernessking. For those of you who have yet to be acquainted with either band, Heathens began as a three-piece specialising in blasphemous black ‘n roll with about as much reverence as Satan in a nunnery, but the acquisition of a fourth member began a transformation in the band’s sound and direction. Early 2011 saw the release of the single, Morning, which showed a drastic change in tone, from balls-to-the-wall energy to a more reserved and introspective sound. Featuring fuzzed out guitars, an emphasis on atmosphere and far less “riffy” passages, the metamorphosis had begun and shortly afterwards, the band announced their name change and with it, a slew of new songs that built upon the foundation laid by “Morning”.
Now, after a small number of live shows, lots of time spent writing and a seven month long recording process, Wildernessking are poised to release The Writing of Gods in the Sand in February 2011. The wait has been arduous, but from the opening bars of “Rubicon”, the band proves that it has certainly been worth it. Sounding like an amalgamation of Wolves in the Throne Room, Drudkh, Walknut and Cult of Luna (basically, everything that has been going right with metal the past few years) the album ebbs and flows through a number of different moods, but always feels cohesive and deliberate.
“Rubicon” is a vicious opener, with bassist/vocalist Keenan Oakes (ex-The Horror Cast) leading the charge before the literal wave of sound hits. The blast beat furore eventually gives way to a more measured groove and eventually a reverb-soaked interlude that feels almost pedestrian in comparison to the song that began less than a minute and a half ago. “Discovery” continues this theme, with Keenan unleashing truly tortured howls over the rest of the instruments. One of the things that stands out the most with the album is the mix, courtesy of Magnus Lindberg of Cult of Luna. All of the instruments have a very defined place in the overall mix, with everything sitting a comfortable distance apart. Whether it is an open space or a tightly pressed together burst, no instrument ever feels overpowered or lost.
“River” picks the pace up and lets the band really show their black metal chops, with a swirling vortex of riffs creating a strong atmosphere. Wildernessking‘s music can really only be likened to running through a thick forest, chaotically dodging tree stumps and branches lashing at limbs. Every so often, a clearing appears, allowing a brief respite before careening back into the fray. The album’s centerpiece, “Utopia”, is a prime example of this, with a chuggy, driving riff pushing forward before the way becomes clear and breathing room is given. This track also does an excellent job of showcasing guitarists Dylan Viljoen and Jesse Vos’ interplay. Their two instruments weave in and out of each other to create a thick fog of sound that is absolutely spellbinding in it’s construction. The “ballad” of the album, “Surrender”, is a slow piece that has a beautiful catharsis that reminds me of summer rain. Keenan’s vocals once again shine in this track and special mention should be made of drummer Jason Jardim proving that he’s not all blast beats and double kick drum punishment.
The penultimate track “Reveal” is a more uptempo, instrumental affair, that gives a very definite nod to Emperor in it’s riffing and structure. The keening lead lines are locked in a constant battle with fast, black metal riffing, drenched in atmospherics and it is a strong contender for my favourite track on the album. Finally the album draws to a close with “Infinity”, which starts softly and gradually builds up into a whirling dervish of fury by the end. It is a fitting closer to what is already my favourite album of the year!
I would love to be able to criticise this album, but in all honesty, I cannot fault it. It may just be one of the finest metal albums to come out of South Africa in recent years. The usual detractors will look at the band’s image or read the lyrics and immediately decry it as “hipster metal” and “un-true”, but those who spend all day fantasizing about 90′s Norwegian black metal won’t “get” this evolution of the genre anyway. The lyrical themes, the sounds created and the passion with which it is all delivered is a pure rejection of modern life, an open embrace of nature and a call to become a king of the wilderness that lies before you.
The Writing of Gods in the Sand is set to be released in the first week of February 2012 by Antithetic Records.