Writing about music certainly has its perks, and I am not complaining about one of them. OK, sometimes there are way, way too many press releases in my inbox that I never intend to read, but that’s not that bad. That’s what the delete button is for. Other than that, I get to hear just about every metal release weeks, sometimes months, in advance, and have built up enough goodwill that I don’t have to do much to get access to music I want to write about on this site.
Sometimes the music does get burdensome, however. There are tons of promos sitting in my inbox I’ll hear maybe once because there isn’t enough time in a week, and the deluge of music makes it tougher and tougher to unearth real gems just because there’s so much through which to sift. OK, I said I wasn’t going to complain. But now and again something will come along that wakes me the fuck up and instantly declares itself. No matter how many records are waiting on your plate and no matter how many critical pieces you have to write, this record keeps calling back to you, distracting you, acting like a lover who wants to pull you away from your tasks, and you can’t say no because the allure is just too great. That’s exactly what happened when I took on “Perigaea Antahkarana,” the new album from Wolvserpent, their second full-length under that moniker, and their Relapse debut.
I’ve been following this band ever since they were Pussygutt, and their adoption of a new moniker seemed like a wise choice if they wanted to get their music to more people. Or maybe that had nothing to do with the decision at all. Anyway, the Boise, Idaho, duo of Blake Green (guitarist/vocals/keys) and Brittany McConnell (drums, percussion, violin, viola) always have made swelling, challenging music that’s hard to pin down and isn’t easily digested if your idea of art is three-minute songs with hooks. Their albums (2010’s awesome “Blood Seed” was their debut under this name) are experiences you must take on and engage with completely, otherwise, you’re missing the point. They spill lots of guts from various sub-genres into their music, from doom to black metal to drone, and the strings add a folk and chamber element to what they do, making their music an even richer experience. The perfect setting to hear Wolvserpent, especially this album, would be isolated in the forest in the middle of the night, with only a campfire and wildlife to keep you company.
Classically trained and certainly out-of-the-box thinkers when it comes to metal compositionally, Green and McConnell made “Perigaea Antahkarana” a sort-of life’s work mission. They wrote, recorded, rewrote, re-recorded, delivered a free demo version called “Perigaea,” and then reinvented the music again into this five-track, 82-minute beast that is one of the year’s best metal records, if not its very best. It’s one that you can take to those closed-minded naysayers who think all metal is just grunts and scrapes and demonstrate that no, we really do have great thinkers and doers among us, and the evidence is in this immaculate, devastating, heart-filling record that I cannot get out of my system or out of my headphones for that matter. It has taken me away from my mass of work elsewhere because it keeps calling to me, inviting me for another visit. And I always take it. It’s an incredible album that I could stay here all day offering praise and adulation, but let’s get to the music itself, that creates this magical world.
“Threshold Gateway” is an atmospheric introduction piece, like entering the woods at the start of a long journey, as birds chirp, winds whip, and light melodies bubble to the surface, making way for “Within the Light of Fire,” a song that begins with strings swelling and emotions rising. Black metal-style guitars erupt, Green’s growls begin to have a presence, and a great canopy of sound opens up over you. The band continues to explore and the sound expands, as growls turn to shrieks and the music gets trippy and mesmerizing. But just as the fog lifts, a nasty, groove-filled doom riff kicks in and dumps the sinister power into the picture, exploding like a powder keg and crushing you entirely. Eventually the storm subsides, as organs sweep into the track and the song bleeds out in drone. “In the Mirrors of Water” is a 21:39 journey, with the opening seven minutes leaning heavily on McConnell strings, which she builds into a moody, folk-like wave that laps over and over again, leaving you dizzy but enthralled. Gazey guitar kicks in and changes the environment, simmering and sweating, and a few minutes later drums kick in and the song begins to build into its full lather. Toward the end of the track, Green unleashes savage growls, and the cut melts into black metal fury, pounding until the final moments when calm is restored and the birds return. Already this is a weighty experience, and we’re only part of the way there.
The second half of the record opens with fluttering strings, fires crackling, and a deep woodsy ambience as “A Breath in the Shade of Time” begins, running a healthy 23:53. Bells begin to chime and the song achieves a rustic feel, perfect for connecting with nature and traveling deeper into the isolated forest. The song has a movie score essence, keeping the drama on high and coloring in the story, and buried growls and a sea of strings serve to keep the textures changing. This also has heaping doses of funeral doom, with the song lurching slowly and a somber expression unfurling before you. Guitars continue to spill in, as the song veers toward the stars, with a female voice calling and chanting, the song bleeding into the night. Closer “Concealed Among the Roots and Soil” is a 17-minute serving of some of the most direct playing on the album, as the bottom drops out almost immediately and the doom blows the doors down. The song is humid and sticky, the metallic melodies are drubbing and cause swelling, and Green growls forcefully over punishing chugging and ceremonial magic. It caps one of the truly special records of the year, one that deserves repeated play despite its challenging length.
So here you have it, one of the best metal albums of the year, and potentially the top choice. There still are a few months remaining to figure this out, but “Perigaea Antahkarana” is a serious contender for that spot. This is a collection of interconnected movements, a true human experience that should connect you to your animal side, and a fascinating piece of work created by two gifted musicians whose creativity knows no bounds. All hail to Wolvserpent, a band that is becoming one of metal’s greatest forces right before our eyes.
For more on the band, go here: http://wolvserpent.com/
To buy the album, go here: http://www.relapse.com/store.html
For more on the label, go here: http://www.relapse.com/