There's not much metal being released around here. Almost every other genre has significant representation, but metal is strangely lacking. Which isn't to say it's completely absent or unrepresented; Loose Cobra's annual OktStonerfest is something of a haven, Earth Witch still rules (as far as I'm concerned, they're still a C-U band, despite relocating to North Carolina), and new doom metal bands pop up every now and then, but it pales in comparison to the amount of music being released in other genres. Enter black metal duo acidfuneral and their first release, wanderer.
Extreme styles of music are often seen as esoteric. Black metal can be especially difficult for the uninitiated, as everything from imagery to lyrical themes are frequently off-putting. acidfuneral has taken a page from Deafheaven's book (the comparisons were inevitable) by attempting to present the style in a way that is much more approachable.
From a visual standpoint, the album art (pictured below) is a far cry from the stark tree-roots-turned-sideways covers of black metal, and is instead full of color and life. The lyrics, while still nightmarish in imagery, are more reminiscent of H.P. Lovecraft than upside-down crosses.
Sonically, acidfuneral avoid leaning heavily on black metal cliches. Growled vocals and rapidly-picked guitars are there, but they are washed under layers of reverb. Combined with the lo-fi production, it gives the album an almost otherworldly feel. At points, the songs come off like black-metal-inspired shoegaze, or a much darker Alcest. Blast beats, a hallmark of the genre, rarely make an appearance, despite songs frequently shifting in tempo and intensity. As a whole, wanderer has a consistent atmosphere, and every element feels like it is a part of an overarching theme.
It's also worth noting the song and album length, particularly in comparison to many other black metal records. wanderer clocks in at just under 20 minutes, or about the same length as a really good Wolves In The Throne Room song. Opting instead for brevity, the longest song on this record is 2:22. Each song feels like hyper-compressed, attempting to give the listener as much information in as little time as possible. “dreamscapes to burn” and “black ethereal realms” both do this especially well; despite being two of the shortest songs on the record, they are considerably more energetic than the rest. “voluntary human extinction” is an excellent penultimate track, offering a moment of calm amidst the chaos preceding it.
The short album length is also especially beneficial for looking at the album as a cohesive whole. Even though songs can be taken individually, listening to the album from start to finish helps reinforce its overall themes and feel. A shorter run time allows for this without completely exhausting the listener; it's particularly beneficial to an album that relies so heavily on maintaining a constant atmosphere.
As with all albums, though, wanderer is not without its shortcomings. The lo-fi production, while generally a positive, can be detrimental. “dreamscapes to burn” and “shifting into alien form” feature extremely intricate guitar work that is almost completely buried under the other instruments and effects. These provide an excellent counterpoint to the dense wall of sound that dominates the rest of the record, so it's unfortunate they ended up buried so low in the mix.
wanderer makes the most of its short run time, taking the listener on a brief, but no less desolate, journey into cosmic horrors. The band provides a welcome breath of fresh air, showcasing a genre that hasn't received as much attention in the local music scene. The result of their work is a record that is as accessible to seasoned black metal fans as it is to newcomers to the genre. I'm very much looking forward to their next releases, and can't wait to see where the next album takes them.
Check out the album