Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Mystical Melancholy: Wildernessking - Mystical Future (2016)

Wildernessking - Mystical Future

Spectral figures emerge from the sea, waves as white horses, reaching forests thick with memory; to the top of mountains where voices echo from the past, where the black oceans sit in the distance - a swallowing void;  from the mountains down to the rivers where voices sing and an ethereal air clashes with the cold unruliness of its flow, a river that drowns sanity and consumes dreams, a nature unforgiving to man.  Mystical Future is not your typical frost-bitten corpse-ridden barren black-metal snore-fest, instead it carries a personal struggle and a vulnerability cloaked in mystical longing and human suffering. Mystical Future is an honest and powerful album and it is in Wildernessking's ability to fuse explosive energy and aggression with somber meditations and sadness that is this albums greatest achievement.

Mystical Future has the hazy warmth of Lantlos' Melting Sun and the sweeping, vast melodic soundscapes of Panopticon and Fall of Rauros. There is an extreme-metal core here that is layered with influences from the vast musical spectrum - post-rock, shoe-gaze, ambient, progressive - but Mystical Future feeds off the dissonance and abrasiveness of black-metal and dwells in the vast cosmic realms of atmospheric black-metal. It maybe lacks a misanthropy inherent in your typical black metal as the band come across as more human and less cold: they're not consumed by the flaming inferno of self-hatred and misanthropy that so many conventional bands hold close. Wildernessking are more concerned with human issues: personal loss, self-reflection, longing, and existential fears.

Atmosphere and feeling smokes from every corner of Mystical Future. The guitars melt in to one another and reverberate throughout, the drums crash with a tenderness and the vocals, high-pitched and floating like fog, permeate through the drifting tenderness and abrasive anger to great effect. There is a beautiful solo in the opening track that cuts through the music with a twinkling poignancy counterbalanced by the piercing cries of vocalist and bassist Keenan Oates. The bass sings throughout the record carrying, like veins, the energy and life-force of much of the album. The drumming throughout the record is also powerful - the snares are quite audible, but it's a pleasant sound - particularly towards the end of the final song, 'If You Leave', where they gallop in to the mystical future with textured force.

Wildernessking - Photo

There are well thought out riffs and transitions throughout; 'I Will Go To Your Tomb' opens with intense double-bass drumming, melodic tremolo riffing, sharp screams and layered leads before clawing to a steadier rhythm as a darker atmosphere siphons its way in to the song from the stars. The song picks up again as drums hasten and vocals become more maniacal, guttural and evil. The song progressions are captivating, layers and elements are added and taken away to great effect, it's not just a wall of sound, everything seems carefully plotted and positioned.

'To Transcend' is a reflective and poignant instrumental track that attempts to solidify the atmosphere Wildernessking are trying to create. It's not too long, it's interesting enough in that it's not purely ambient: bass, drums and vocals faintly waltz in a dirge-like pattern, leading up to 'With Arms Like Wands', another intense and cavernous eight-minute journey. The black-metal side of things picks up here with incessant dissonance grating from the get-go, before slowing down with the leads harmonising together. I really love the leads in this album, I get a real Fall of Rauros vibe from them and that's a really great thing.

'If You Leave' opens cautiously, it's the last track and at 13-minutes something vast is expected. Atmosphere drips from every corner as female clean vocals - in the same vein as Chelsea Wolfe - fade in and ring atop of floating reverb-drenched guitars. The gruff hush of vocals intercedes and the song builds layer upon layer, bitter melancholy on top of bitter melancholy, toppling as the bass drumming intensifies.  It does feel that, after being stripped bare, with nothing left to give, the album fades into the setting sun, sizzling off mountainsides, steam rising, glistening into the night. It's a satisfying closure to a powerful album.

I knew that I'd like this album based off the tracks I had heard a few weeks prior and I haven't been disappointed. This album has everything I like in atmospheric black-metal: it's not overly reliant on external sounds to create atmosphere, instrumentation is used with a particularity and a diversity that is so much more powerful than the sound of birds chirping or flat violins played from a keyboard. It's top-of-the-range atmospheric black-metal from the most unlikely of places (Cape Town, South Africa) and I'm sure Wildernessking will continue to create powerful music like this for a long time to come.

Rating: 8.75/10

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