Ván Records has had a stellar start to 2018, releasing standout albums from the likes of Antlers, Dautha, and Faal (to name a few). In May they would continue this with two releases that are heavy on atmosphere and hypnotic riffing but take significantly different directions to get there, Urfaust’s The Constellatory Practicesand Wolvennest’s VOID. The latter is the sophomore effort from the Belgian band, which focuses on sprawling arrangements that utilize repetition to create a hypnotic and mysterious atmosphere. With elements that fall everywhere from black metal to heavy psych and post punk, VOID proves to be an enticing listen that maintains an identity of its own even if some moments overstay their welcome.
Spread across six tracks that range from eight to seventeen minutes in length, VOID is the type of album that is best experienced with a dedicated block of time to take the entire effort in. Wolvennest layers their instrumentation slowly, letting each element spread outwards until the sound has fully enveloped the listener. Each song follows this type of writing pattern but each one emphasizes different stylistic elements, which keeps it from feeling as though the band is simply retreading the same idea for the entire run-time. Abrasive tonality recalls quite a few black metal influences, but the guitar leads and synthesizer work also morph the overall sound into a more psychedelically oriented affair. This is where the material truly shines, as the hazier tonality mixed with the jagged edges results in atmosphere that is inviting and pummeling at the same time. It’s a delicate balance that can’t be easy to maintain, but it could potentially make Wolvennest appeal to listeners who don’t usually gravitate towards anything black metal related. In addition to the heavy psych vibes, the darker melodies also hint at post punk and gothic rock influences and the instrumentals are able to seamlessly weave them in to their songs. With the emphasis on repetition VOID may not be an album for everyone, and even as someone that was immediately drawn into the band’s atmosphere I found that some of the repetition drags on for a few minutes longer than they need to.
The vocals are another element that help VOID to stand out, as rather than utilizing the standard harsh pitches associated with black metal Wolvennest sticks with a variety of cleaner ranges for the entire album. It takes a bit before the vocals surface at all though, as the twelve-minute opener “Silure” is an instrumental track and might trick some listeners into thinking that the rest of material will follow this same format. But as soon as “Ritual Lovers” begins it becomes clear that the group intends to head off in a different direction, as the pitches on this track are reminiscent of several different post punk/alternative rock singers (I’m personally reminded a bit of Placebo for some reason). As VOID moves forward the vocal work moves up and down in pitch, with the one consistent element being the commanding presence that each word holds over you.
With their sophomore effort Wolvennest has channeled a dark and mysterious atmosphere that takes droning black metal as a base and layers a large dose of heavy psych elements over top of it. Sometimes the repetition leads the songs to sprawl outwards for a little longer than they need to, but that doesn’t hurt the album’s ability to put the listener under their spell. It’s clear that this group has taken a wide range of darker musical styles and found their own voice, and they’re worth spending time with for anyone who wants something a little outside of the norm. VOID is out now from Ván Records.
-Review by Chris Dahlberg
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