Friday, January 18, 2013

Wandersword - V Ozhidanii Bojny (2012)

There is something about a band from the coldest reaches of the Earth that makes their home spun take on melodic death metal all the more intriguing. Hailing from Saint Petersburg, Russia, Wandersword need only a few short seconds of your time to rope you in. This four piece outfit, with influences ranging from Wintersun to Amorphis, embody the icy cold riffs of their viking heroes. But while they might share things in common with those bands they hold so dear, they also have a unique and refreshing appeal. Perhaps it comes from their geography; or maybe even from their clear vision of their sound. Whatever the case may be, "В ожидании войны" (or "Waiting For War," as the translations go) is far more advanced than you would have expected from a new band, and much more intense.

Serving as the intro track, "В ожидании войны" gives the impression of a much more seasoned band. The pounding of drums forms the base for a myriad of horns and flutes. There is an adventurous spirit to it, something reinforced by the first moments of "Доблестный Викинг." The kick drum sound is immense, a loud, booming thud bursting through your speakers with ever beat. The lead and rhythm guitar riffs lift each other up over the rattling low end. Singer and bassist Andrey Anikin roars his way into the mix on both ends, with vocals and fingers giving their own depth. A sudden burst of speed comes in the latter half, with tricky finger work picking up the pace. The band follows suit, with speed and precision coming together in harmony. As one track fades, the next begins with a delicate clean guitar opening "Алый закат." From that comes the main melody, one that permeates throughout the entire track. For one that is so raucous, it is also surprisingly well constructed. When things slow down, leaving a clean, though yelling, vocal to take command, it all falls into place. Nothing is out of sorts, nothing goes awry. A bridge section emerges, stomping and pulsing ahead with reckless abandon.

In a true show of strength, "След чужих кораблей" boasts all of the heavy duty guitar work and intelligent design of Insomnium. It may sound raw at first listen, but there is a certain refined quality that makes it easily digestible. It could be said that the songs to this point all follow the same formula, with a high speed opening, slowing to a crawl around the bridge. And while this isn't a bad thing entirely, it does leave room for lateral movement. Melodic sensibilities return on "Властители Мира," which sees the band taking a very cinematic approach to their craft. But as you enter the first verse, you may hear other similarities to their instrumental. There are pieces that echo the work of Dethklok, though with a more rounded use of synthesizers and keys. Anikin has a voice that contains the breadth and range of some of the best in the business, while drummer Alexey Krasnov does enough to leave you feeling dizzy. And after all of this thrashing about, they still have the ability to go to a fading wave as the outro, soothing in sound. In perhaps their most inspired effort, "Мирный страж" is a gem waiting to be discovered. This is the perfect track for a melodic death or folk album to be built on. Layers are formed perfectly, placed on top of one another in such a way that everything shines through in perfect harmony.

Without skipping a beat, the band launches into "Сорок Воинов," with double kicks aplenty. Guitarists Alexander Manukhin and Albert Osmolovsk do serious damage here, crushing riffs flying from every direction. Chanting vocals see the light of day as well, which only strengthens the screaming, dirty vocals that have been weighing on you all this time. What is even more staggering in all of this heavy handed playing is how catchy each and every piece of the puzzle can be. The short interlude before the bridge sets the stage in such a way as to allow the return of distortion to knock you back, unsuspectingly. With an album of this sort, there is no better way to end it than with a thumping call to arms, exactly what "Северные Врата" seems to be. The beating of drums is joined by keys and plucked guitar strings, before evolving into something far more fierce. Each the music fades, and those drums return, it is a chance to catch your breath for the coming assault. While not the most balanced effort on the album, it is certainly one of the most heavy. Once again, the two guitar attack yields serious benefits.

Maybe it's the cold that helps to forge such dynamic young bands. You would be hard pressed to find a single moment on this disc that would have you believing this wasn't an aging, seasoned band. Truth be told, Wandersword could easily be passed off as a titan of the genre, or a former star under a new name. It becomes so easy to get lost in their sound, in the way they write an construct song after song or pure, unadulterated melodic death metal. This is also one of the few debut albums you will find where the pieces, on their own, are equal. There is no weak link, no one piece that could cause the entire operation to come crumbling down. this is about as good as it can get. And all without being able to understand a single word.


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