Saturday, January 12, 2013

Warseid - Where Fate Lies Unbound

Where... something lies unbound

Blatantly Obvious Fact of the Day: I tend to like music that comes from my hometown region!  Shocking, I know!  But whenever I find myself talking about Midwestern metal, I find it to be thrash metal most of the time.  I guess a bit of black metal too, as the legendary Judas Iscariot hails from DeKalb, and the more modern take in Arbor comes from Milwaukee, and I guess there's a lot of death metal too, and there's some great trad metal like High Spirits... okay so I didn't think this sentence through before starting it, but the point is that epic viking metal isn't normally what the scene is known for.  And obviously, that is what Madison's so-young-even-the-Greek-wouldn't-fondle-them kids in Warseid provide listeners with.

With Wisconsin being the frozen wasteland devoid of anything other than ice cream and shitty sports teams, it's no surprise the desolate atmosphere comes across so vividly in the band's newest EP, Where Fate Lies Unbound.  Despite hearing the particular descriptor tacked on to nearly every Scandinavian black metal band to ever exist, it's rare I hear music and think to myself "Yup, this sounds like winter", so Warseid earns points straight off the bat for getting something as abstract as a season synethesially put to music.  Basically all of the slower passages (and each of the four tracks feature at least one slow section) present the bone-chill and inherent hopelessness of trekking through snow-swept landscapes and traversing icy mountains.  The clean passages in the 11+ minute closer, "Farewell" coupled with the harmonized vocals really get across a feeling of cold sadness, whilst casting away a fallen brother before lighting his boat on fire and pelting him with flaming arrows (Viking funerals are fucking hardcore). 

The fact that I've used a lot of Viking imagery to describe the feel of the album shows that Warseid has managed to tap into a vein that so many bands aim for and miss with damn near hilarious frequency.  Where Fate Lies Unbound truly deserves the tag of "viking metal", as opposed to the hideous misnomer I see consistently applied to bands like Amon Amarth and Hammer Horde.  Yes, this smacks of Vintersorg and mid-era Bathory much more than any type of dorky folk metal or melodeath babble, though I can't help but feel like the aggressive aspect of the music is given a bit more time in the limelight than their predecessors.  Coming from a fan of thrash and tech death and punk, obviously more aggression is something I love to hear in any style of music, it's why I like Ortagos more than Xasthur and it's why I actually like this young outfit more than many of their peers.  And with that said, I must point out that these boys manage to balance the downtrodden sounds of needless bloodshed, the fire of battle, and the epic relief of triumph masterfully.  I can't point to any of the four songs on display as "the fast one" or "the ballad" or anything like that, all four of them act as their own self contained tale of honor and bloodshed, and the EP feels more like one cohesive experience as opposed to merely a collection of songs as a result.

Now, granted this does mean that the album is somewhat lacking in variety from track to track, with each and every song containing a segment with soaring keys and triumphant tremolo riffs and an accompanying section of sad clean guitars and whatnot, but the variety within each track makes up for it in my eyes.  A full length album of this would surely wear out its welcome before the end of the running time, but as a four track, 30 minute EP it works marvelously, and there really isn't much more I can ask out of the band.  Maybe it's because I've heard somewhere between zero and two Borknagar songs in my lifetime, so there's a chance I'm reaching a bit when it comes to similarities, but in addition to the obvious Nordland type Bathory influence, I can't help but also think of Northland.  Yeah, that obvious Ensiferum knockoff from Spain, that Northland.  The harsh vocals sound nearly identical to me, with even the same minor distortion when they get louder, so that certainly helps in the comparison, but really and truly it's simply the fact that sounds like if Freezing Sadness was more ambitious, better produced, and written by a band mature enough to reach for more than one band for inspiration.

So basically if you like legit viking metal (think Twilight of the Gods, not Twilight of the Thunder God), then you really can't go wrong with Warseid.  I see them constantly tagged as "symphonic black/folk metal", which I guess isn't wrong, but really all I can think of when listening to Where Fate Lies Unbound are the OG, real viking metal bands.  Listen and judge for yourself I suppose, which you can totally do effortlessly since you can stream this entire EP for free on the band's Bandcamp, and if you're a super nice soul you can buy the darn thing too, along with some killer merch.  I'm not even affiliated with the band, I just like this so much that I can't help but act as a shameless promotion machine, bite my anus.

RATING - 83%

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