Waldgeflüster – Meine Fesseln (Bindrune Recordings, 10 January 2014)
This week has seen a wave of record-breaking cold all across North America, with sub-zero HIGH temperatures in some places, as well as dangerously low wind-chill factors that prompted widespread closures of schools and businesses in many areas. Those of us who weren’t fortunate enough to be able to stay home under several blankets could be seen bundled in as many layers as possible while still being able to walk, in a vain attempt to protect against the freezing winds. The point I’m trying to make is, it’s been pretty damn cold around here.
And so, I couldn’t imagine a more appropriate time than this, for a new album to be released by the German one-man black metal contingent Waldgeflüster (just that name — which approximately translates to “whispering woods” — evokes images of icy cold darkness). The full-length due out tomorrow (10 January) from Bindrune Recordings will be the third overall from the project, which consists chiefly of a guy called Winterherz (“Winter Heart”). Comprising seven tracks in all, and lasting just over an hour, new album Meine Fesseln (“My Shackles”) also includes contributions from a variety of other musicians, including Austin Lunn of Panopticon (mandolin, vocals, and guitar solos) and Johan Becker of Austaras (violin), among others. Incidentally, Johan has also appeared on Panopticon recordings, and both he and Austin happened to have guest spots on Vit‘s The Dry Season — which had just been released when I spoke with that band’s drummer prior to last year’s Winter’s Wake festival in Pittsburgh; furthermore, Johan had accompanied Vit at that performance, and shortly afterwards he mentioned to me that he was working on a few other upcoming projects at that time — which happened to be my first time hearing of Waldgeflüster. Not that any of that has any particular relevance to this review (or to anything at all); I just thought I’d share some trivia with you.
You can get a fairly good glimpse into Meine Fesseln by checking out this seven-and-a-half-minute video trailer, which features audio highlights from all the album’s songs:
… however, that brief preview doesn’t really do justice to the larger picture. Spaced out over the course of an entire full-length, there’s plenty of room left for atmospheric elements to set the mood. And generally speaking, that mood is rather melancholy. (Particularly in some of the slower sections or parts with layered clean vocals: these tend to imbue the songs with a spirit similar to that created by later Woods of Ypres albums, for example.) The song structures here — several of the tracks exceed the ten-minute mark, and take a number of different twists and turns along the way — along with the frequent incorporation of slower, acoustic-guitar-dominated parts, remind me a bit of a band like Oak Pantheon (or, naturally, Panopticon or Vit, just to name a few examples). In addition to the overall tone and structure of the album, the comparison also arises as a result of the nature-oriented themes here: the album includes songs about der Nebel (“the fog”), der Morgensonn (“the morning sun”), and THREE songs whose titles make reference to willows (Weide) or weeping willows (Trauerweide).
The sylvan/natural focus also pops up in the song called “Karhunkierros” (which literally translates as “Bear’s Ring” in Finnish, and is the name of a famous hiking trail in Finland). Fittingly, part of this song includes a kantele (a Finnish folk instrument similar to a dulcimer) in the background. The many traditional instruments that pop up here — such as acoustic guitar, mandolin, and violin, in addition to the kantele — might be expected to lend themselves to a somewhat pastoral feeling, especially considering the references to nature in the titles. However, this is still black metal, which is rarely known for promoting any sort of sense of tranquility or peacefulness. On the contrary, some of the additional instruments and various layers of background music occasionally can serve to overwhelm, and they sometimes border on sounding nearly dischordant.
Essentially, throughout this entire album there is an underlying sensation of uneasiness produced for the listener. A feeling not dissimilar to suffering through a long, gloomy winter…
Meine Fesseln is now available to pre-order on CD from Bindrune Recordings (here).