Wilderness, Doom And The Dreaded Fade Out, A Wildeornes Album Analysis: By M H Thomson.
Wilderness, Doom And The Dreaded Fade Out, A Wildeornes Album Analysis: By M H Thomson.
Wildeornes (pronounced “Wilderness”) are a Melbournian blackened doom metal band. The band consists of guitarist/vocalists Damien Vennell and Richard Hammond (not the shortarse from Top Gear), bassist Shane Hoffman and drummer Tom Harvey. Their exploits so far have seen them produce an ep and four full length records, the latest of which On the Earth, Under the Sky. The record is a compelling mix of old and new with 5 brand new tracks making up what would be the A side and some rerecordings of songs from their previous outing Gæð wyrd a swa hio scel… forming the B side.
Here are my thoughts on the album:
Mouth of the River:
This track kicks off with a typically black metal drum fill and riff, and the first thing that really hits you is the presumably purposefully cheap sounding production quality, which is very on brand for a black metal project. This thin tinniness soon subsides as Shane’s archetypal chunky and overly distorted doom bass comes thundering in; summoning with it an ever so slight progressive edge which combined with the black metal elements make it feel like you’re listening to Mastodon’s Blood Mountain with the bass turned up way too loud on your stereo's equaliser. The Mastodon-esque vibes continue as they roll into the verses, a multilayered cacophony of cleans and low brutal screams make for a cool and interesting vocal texture. A brief guitar solo provides a nice change of pace before we return to a verse that now feels like the chorus. As they blow past the 4 minute barrier the already going second guitar solo draws the band into what briefly sounds like a late 90’s Opeth song, this feel tastefully peppered amongst the shred. The band then finally return to sing a verse before abruptly ending the song. For an opening number this one takes you on quite a journey of different feels whilst maintaining cohesion amongst the chaos.
On the Earth, Under the Sky:
A whirlwind of a start, abundant with blast beats and tremolo picking really packing on the intensity. This all eventually accompanied by what feels like Celtic monks chanting a long single note, which adds some real grandiosity to the piece. The brutality then fades to make way for a very folky acoustic guitar endlessly repeating the same phrase, setting a backdrop for the first set of verses. This section is tailed by awesome moody and evocative whispers leading the band back into some heavier material. The clean gang vocals return for a rather long period of vocals interspersed with guitar solos and the odd progressive interlude. Vocalistis Richard and Damien really earning their keep with a mixture of clean vocals, whispers, monkish chants and vocal lines that blend with guitar harmonies, all set atop an amalgam of blisteringly epic mid paced grooves and the odd acoustic interjection. The track really plods along with all the purpose of an Iron Maiden epic but with an underlying tone of a doom metal track. A masterfully executed piece, where you can really hear the vision.
Block out the Light:
Quite the change of pace, from the previous two tracks. The top third of the song is a slow mournful bluesy meander through a clear and solemn verse that appears to pertain to a descent into depression and self reflection. The ballady feel quickly makes way for a riff driven by a steady 80’s rock beat. The guitars counter the vocals with some nice punchy chugs when the verses rejoin the fray. The gallopy nature of the riff very much impressing upon the listener the notion that we’re being propelled toward something positive. Drummer Tom exhibiting some nice triplet work on the double pedal. He subtly but noticeably changes up the groove when they come back in for the second round with this heavier main verse riff. They briefly return to a Mastodon style feel as a way of bridging into the guitar solo before returning to the tracks main form. After charging back into the final chorus they round it off with some rousing chanting before drawing the song to an uplifting close with a return to the 80’s rock beat feel. Another great tune.
Some very spacey synth sounds and a lonely lead guitar open the number in a similarly bluesy key to the previous song, albeit with a very otherworldly sci-fi feel to it this time around. The tune then gains some doom metal backing, as the guitars continue their trance like soloing voyage. Just beyond the 4 minute mark the tune picks up a modicum of momentum (but not nearly enough) with the introduction of a riff somewhat redolent of Black Sabbath’s “Wheels of Confusion” and the introduction of vocals. The song plods along in much that same vein for the remainder, the odd guitar solo thrown in to break up the verses before concluding with, of all things, a fade out. I’ve always felt fade outs are a method of copping out of writing an interesting outro. After such greatness in the first three numbers this track is a bit of a let down overall; such a cool and intriguing start with such an uninspired conclusion.
The Sons of Muspell Ride:
The intro is full of beautiful finger-picked acoustic instrumentation overlaid with very Clapton and Page like solo work from the electric guitars. The soulful vocal harmonies gracefully compliment the guitar work. Unfortunately the soporific pacing and laconic chorus means the song really drags. It finally makes an attempt to get going somewhere in the 4 minute neighbourhood, however it is not enough of a change of pace to adorn the listener with anything of interest, save the occasional drum fill. It’s a shame because it is a tight and beautifully performed piece, just not a very exciting one; lacking the variety of “On the Earth, Under the Sky” that made that second track such a stand out. The song eventually shifts to what feels like a blackened version of Amon Amarth and finally picks up some real steam, but it’s at the bloody 7 and half minute mark, which is far too late. It feels like the reverse of “Under Oak”, this time a glacially slow building intro and body with this amazing ending where all the guitar harmonies and plodding groove finally settle into a solid place.
The Longest Night:
A blast beat laden mixture of slam and black metal to start, with the double bass drum pedal doing a lot of the heavy lifting early on. The song then slows down (about a minute in) to a more diminished feel, to conclude what is quite a long intro. It feels more like an album opener, which it is/was considering this is the first of the tracks on this record reworked from their 2021’s Gæð wyrd a swa hio scel… The main body of the track feels like Mastodon trying to cover a Gojira song. The feel of the main riff is that of quite weighty doom and evolves very little throughout the tune, but it doesn't need to. The zany and noisy guitar solos during the last third of the tune do add a bit of variety but ultimately feel like they’re just replacing a verse in the same back and forth between the doomy Gojira riff and the verse/solo riff. It does, however, make for a nice change of pace. A solid, if slightly unadventurous effort.
Ride the Abyss:
This one sounds like an old Psycroptic song with most of the technical gubbins removed. A well grounded opening riff that continues the bands penchant for adding some black metal elements to progressive metal riffs. The slightly Zakk Wylde-esque vocal delivery in the chorus adds some real texture to it; this also nicely foreshadows the wicked blusier southern metal vibes that dominate what lies beyond the first chorus. The song bobs and weaves through southern, black, doom, and progressive metal throughout. Wildeornes stylistically pulling out all the stops here in a master class of how to properly cohere a medley of different subgenres to make one banger of a track. The only real oddity sits right at the end with the inclusion of what sounds like a drowning demon and some crashing waves coming seemingly from nowhere, but it serves the song well as a fun way of hiding the crime (via distraction) that is the fade out.
The crashing waves from the outro of the “Ride the Abyss” now makes sense as the band brings us literally crashing into what feels like a reimagining of the intro to Lamb of God’s “Reclamation”. Whilst quite obviously a cold and vicious black metal song on the surface, the folky guitar figure that underpins the main riff affords it a lot of emotional depth and soul. The chorus lines matching this with a sense of terminal yearning. The violent chugging of the mid section gives way to a more chilled out segment reminiscent of the intro, this followed by the screaming blues solo makes for a brutal but hearty bridge. A truly powerful and driving passage of music. In the wake of this the returning chorus and following violent chugging draw the tune to a triumphant end. Definitely the highlight of the whole record.
Despite, Not Because:
The pounding introductory drumline seems to have been lifted from Stone Sour’s “Come What(ever) May”. Roy Mayorga impressions aside it slays as a build up. As the building drum part increases in speed it escalates to a sudden stop which ushers in a very Iron Maiden like feel that persists throughout the tune. It’s gallops galore in the verse and pre-chorus on both guitars and drums. This maidenness extends to the clean vocals too, with the vocalist (unsure which one) doing a brilliant approximation of a Bruce Dickinson style vocal. The as yet unmentioned Hammond Organ sounding guitar effect makes a comeback in the post chorus solos. The solos and the chorus trading back and forth for a time in the mid section really allows the “Hammond Organ” to shine. I also enjoyed the use of the intro build up as lead into what would have been a powerful outro, if it weren’t for the fucking fade out; a disappointing full stop on the end of a phenomenal track.
Overall On the Earth, Under the Sky I feel is an interesting but at times punishing ride. There are some absolute belters on this album but they are unfortunately met in equal measure by their rather more taxing counterparts. I was however impressed by the breadth of different moods and subgenres Wildeornes explore throughout the quite lengthy journey that is this album. All the while they still manage to maintain a solid grounding in the blackened doom metal they style themselves as. For fans of Mastodon (I feel like a broken record the number of comparisons I made to them here) and more leisurely paced doom metal I would definitely recommend this record; but you do probably have to be both to get the most out of it.