Sunday, 28 August 2011

Wolvserpent - Blood Seed

I'd been dithering over whether or not to purchase this record for close to a year. I hadn't actually heard a single note of this band's music before I kinda fell in love with them through their amazing tour diaries over at Invisible Oranges [ ], they inspired some pretty serious wanderlust in me, so I was pretty interested in them as people rather than as a band.
I delved a little deeper, finding a stream of their, at the time, unreleased album Blood Seed over at the 20 Buck Spin site. My listening environment for this album wasn't exactly ideal, I was playing it on my lunch break at work, the music barely audible over the incessant drone of co-worker phonecalls. But what I heard made me able to tune everything else out immediately. I was hooked.

So for some reason, it still took me almost a year to actually splash some cash on the LP, but damn am I glad I did!

I am a tiiiny bit disappointed that this isn't a gatefold sleeve, only because the design is so well executed that I wish there was more of it. The sleeve has this not-too-glossy finish to it, an ideal showcase for the black abyss surrounding the blood and bone ritualistic cover photo.
The insert is also great, but is stylistically very different. It's an old tintype photograph depicting a river as a hive of activity, steamboats, rowing boats, cavernous mountains... it's kind of eerie.
It just so happens that in this case, the album artwork PERFECTLY compliments the music.

Side A - Wolv
The music slowly filters in, an exercise in ambience, mood-setting, whatever you want to call it. Staring at that tintype photograph as you hear the haunting strains of a violin played against a windy backdrop is... pretty damn fun. If your idea of fun is being creeped the fuck out and indulging in some amateur ativism, picturing yourself within the photo. Goddamn I'm a pretentious prick sometimes. Fight me about it.

A guitar winds it's way in on top of the violin, really clean, semi-acoustic tones. It's got almost a banjo-y twang to it. Again, it doesn't seem out of place against the 'setting' of this record.
I know I said I wouldn't be doing band X + Y comparisons when talking about music, but I really can't avoid this one. It sounds like a less-opressive Earth, particularly their latest stuff, like The Bees Made Honey In The Lions Skull. Though this somehow seems lighter. Sparse. The notes come faster, with more of a recognisable melody, but they have room to breathe? The whole time the violin wails on.

About halfway into the song (oh, I may have forgotten to mention each side of the record is a single track) the amplified guitar makes it's presence known with this sudden screech, and begins a cycle into a groaning, lumbering riff. Without any fanfare, like I only just noticed them, a choral wail has begun in the background.
I realise how ridiculously pretentious I'm making all of this sound, but this really is music to lose yourself in.
It really has this amazing soundtrack-ish quality to it, a real soundscape. I can imagine this being played live over a backdrop of an old silent horror movie.
The riff dooms on, cymbals crash and that despairing choir moans itself towards the end of that side. The riff cycle ends, and it descends into shimmering feedback. I'd be super-interested in seeing how they pull this music off live, seeing as there are only two members in the band.

photograph used without permission from

Side B - Serpent
Immediately this track launches back into the haunting choral sound and groaning guitar ambience from side A.
As much as I love the ritual of flipping vinyl, I would love to hear this record as one continuous track, without interruption.
The drone/moan continues up until around one-third of the way through the record when another amplified riff shakes away any audio inertia. This one has much more of a crunch, a kick, and for the first time this feels like something approaching traditional doom. It interjects little... atonal squeals, I think people who know anything about music call them pinched harmonics? Fuck knows, I'm the furthest thing from a musician.

I might not know much about music, but I know what I like, and that is being surprised by music. The riff morphs in an instant to this Pike-esque rumble, this juggernaut (Supernaut?) sound, accompanied by big, splashy cymbals and the continuous tortured screams.
I'm not much of a black metal fan, but sometimes I can understand the feeling people get from those initial recordings, the sense of dread, of coldness. The low drone and high shriek of the vocals on this side give me that feeling. My spine is officially chilled.
The riff continues on, in a pocket all of it's own, the drums locking in with it in their own way.

By the time the album ends, I feel like I've actually... experienced something. I play both sides through again, lost in that photo...

Purchase the LP direct from the band, as it seems it is no longer available on the 20 Buck Spin site?

And check out 20 Buck Spin while you're at it anyway, they have some great stuff kicking around there

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