Warthane popped up on my radar in 2008. Despite them being based in Johannesburg some 1,600 kilometers away from me in Cape Town, I’ve had ample opportunities to see them perform at various clubs and festivals in a number of cities at fairly regular, but well-spaced intervals over the last 4 years or so. This has given me a nice perspective of the bands development. I’ve also happened across some previous recordings, which were not what I’d call extraordinary. What I would say certainly is extraordinary that I’ve picked up on about this band since I’ve been following them is just how hard working they are. It would seem to me that as of late that all this hard work has been well invested.
Black Divine (Grim Music – 2011) is the band’s second album, released just a few weeks ago on 10 December, 2011 and it speaks absolute volumes on the band’s development since The Gallows Are Calling, recorded back in 2008. What also cannot be overlooked is the bands impressive visual identity overhaul, including not only the graphic identity, but also stage attire. These guys and their new album look world class… but do they sound it?
I think the albums opening track, “Autumn’s Woe”, should answer that question well enough. It begins quite abruptly – with a no-nonsense black metal feel – leaving out any fluffy drawn out intro ditties (the likes of which seem almost a trend with releases these days). It sounds huge! Probably because the band has taken the same approach which has resulted in other great sounding releases come out of South Africa in 2011: international-standard post production! It’s no secret that experience in mixing and mastering for the genre is sorely lacking in the local scene, resulting in many a sub-international-standard release, but there’s nothing wrong with our local studios. One studio which has been producing great results for many rock and metal bands over the years is B# Studios, and the album was tracked and mixed there, and then shipped off to Cutting Room Studios, Sweden, for the magic touches that can’t seem to be found locally. And the proof is in the pudding!
Anyhow, back to the songs – “Autumn’s Woe” is a fantastic choice for an opener. It takes the listener on a journey through pretty much every dynamic of the band’s sound right from the word go, and keeps the ear drawn in. The second track lives up to the bands claim of being blackened thrash with a choppy-chuggy riff to lure the ear (and headbang o’meter) in, and just evolves from there. The following tracks provide plenty of happy heavy metal listening, but by number six or so I begin feeling a yearning for the same dynamic range as demonstrated in the opener. Track seven, titled “Illumination of God and Lucifer”, does it for me with what is possibly the most memorable guitar hook on the album! It’s as though this, at track seven, represents something of a turning point in the album to a new level of sophistication – and continues through the next two tracks to the albums conclusion, with each song having a major hook of some sort: be it a particularly nifty guitar piece, or the female guest vocals provided by Heike Van Dominic (ex-Inferium; who, incidentally, is also the lady responsible for the fantastic album design), or even just some atmospheric accompaniments – but especially in that the band does not borrow the same tricks used in one song for another. I think my absolute favourite has to be the last track “Betrothed Black Winters Dawn”, which appeals to my own liking for slower, doomier stuff, and just provides a really nice sense of closure as well. I would have to conclude that Warthane‘s Black Divine lives up to its namesake. It is both Black and Divine.
Black Divine is available now for digital download Warthane’s Reverbnation store.
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