As the years go by, the original torch bearers of the legendary Norwegian black metal scene travel further down their own unique music journeys. While the spirit, soul, and creativity will always remain intact, the darkness, extremity, and sheer sonic force has often been left in the past. However, THE WRETCHED END continue to redefine and progress not just what extreme metal is but also what Norwegian black metal is in 2016. The Scandinavian super group, featuring Samoth (EMPEROR, ZYKLON, SCUM), Cosmo (MINDGRINDER, SCUM), and Nils Fjellström (DARK FUNERAL, IN BATTLE) have released an ambitious and progressive work that considerably widens the scope of their music.
In These Woods, From These Mountains is arguably the band’s best album to date. The brutal thrash dimension from debut, Ominous, is minimal, and the death metal dimension found through the first two albums are largely secondary. It is decidedly their blackest and most atmospheric to date. There is an emphasis on using just as much clean guitar tone-riffs to create eerie, desolate atmospheres as there are on distorted ones. Many of the clean guitar-tone riffs could easily fit into a SLOWDIVE or MY BLOODY VALENTINE album. Samoth and Cosmo have also focused on creating melancholic melodies that come in at the perfect junctions. In contrast to Ominous and Inroads, the riffing and song structures have more breathing room. It’s less of a barrage of eighth and sixteenth notes and more about longer notes. As a result, Dominator’s drumming becomes more crucial in providing the backbone, which he does to brilliant effect. Few extreme metal drummers have totally mastered the art of the ride cymbal like he has.
Other interesting aspects of In These Woods, From These Mountains that should not be overlooked are the use of keyboards, samples, and Cosmo’s clean vocals. He has done fantastic work with WINDIR contributing clean vocals. And while his clean vocals here aren’t as prominent, it’s a welcome new dimension.
Every song provides a different look and highlights can be found all over. And within each song is a full range of dynamics and dimension in play. The nuances in artistry can fully be appreciated after successive listens. So much ground is covered. Comparisons to EMPEROR’s IX Equilibrium come to mind.
Opener, “Dead Icons,” begins with a cold drum march before bursting into a speeding fireball with unique, eerie guitar riffs. The lyrics easily apply to current events affecting the world today. “Primordial Freedom” starts out ominous and doomy before taking flight with blast beats. “Old Norwegian Soul” may be the “purest” black metal song, complete with the haunting, low end groans of Attila Csihar (MAYHEM, TORMENTOR), keyboards, melodies, and juxtaposed tempos. “Atheos” is an absolute high point in the band’s career with its galloping, invincible momentum. The riff that comes in at the 3:27 mark lays everything to waste. Devastating. THE WRETCHED END closes In These Woods, From These Mountains with a glacier-sized cover of BEL CANTO’s “Dewy Fields.” Helping out is Einar Solberg (LEPROUS) on lead vocals and the criminally underrated LRZ (RED HARVEST) providing the epic synth and programming.
With In These Woods, From These Mountains, THE WRETCHED END only seek to create an immediate classic album. There is so much greatness to behold. Hail. (Indie Recordings)