Folk music and black metal are something that go together hand in hand, in spite of seeming disparate to the layman. Blackened folk metal, or folk-black metal or however you want to parse this subgenre within a subgenre has been a thing for a very long time now, with bands exploring and expanding on the idea since at least Bathory.
Wodensthrone are on the cusp of a developing sound within the UK black metal scene along with a handful of other acts, most notably Fen and Winterfylleth, who explore folk music through the medium of black metal in terms of attitude as well as musical tropes; this is black metal as a celebration of life, nature and the procession of the seasons, as opposed to anything referencing the occult from any Judeo-Christian standpoint. Of the three aforementioned, Wodensthrone have been around the longest, and to my mind anyway, embody that sound the best.
Curse is their sophomore effort and is a very different beast from their debut Loss. The production is a lot more transparent, with less emphasis on the warm washes of synth texture that were such a feature of their earlier work. The keys are still there of course, they’re just less dominant in the mix which serves to make the whole package sound harsher, rawer and more abrasive. If Loss was evocative of savouring the last of summer as the nights draw in and the season turns, Curse brings with it the bitter north winds and raw coldness of late autumn.
Curse also represents a clear musical progression for Wodensthrone. The sections of songs transition more organically than before, and the changes in dynamics are more deftly handled, in main part thanks to drummer Hréowsian, who proves he knows how to groove interestingly and tastefully as well as blast, and whose subtle feel changes serve to shepherd structural changes in the songs into one another admirably.
As well as these refinements to their arrangements, the band have experimented a lot more with the notion of the riff, as opposed to falling back on the tremmed chords, blasting and texture that was previously such a staple for them. The intro riff of ‘The Great Darkness’, for example, has a solid musical identity the listener can latch onto, while still managing to be atmospheric and evocative. The last third of that song too, is surprisingly catchy, and the transition between the tremmed black metal riffing and well-written vocal melody to the keyboard led, half-time coda is perfect.
Curse is a significant step forward for Wodensthrone, and they have clearly not been idle in the three years since Loss’s original release. The album is replete with interesting musical ideas, while still referencing the sound they developed on Loss. Another strong positive is that the changes sound organic rather than forced musical experiment. In a genre of music that is often hidebound by adherence to traditionalism, it’s nice to hear a band willing to allow themselves to grow.
Wodensthrone’s facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Wodensthrone-Official/171070939643664
Candlelight Records Website: http://www.candlelightrecords.co.uk