Monday, 27 May 2013

Úlfarr/Hrafnblóð - Wulfhere Split



Extreme metal can manifest itself in the serenest and quietest places. Especially black metal, where bands take their influences from the world and nature around them. It's always a joy to discover such bands on your own doorstep, sometimes where you least expected them. This review features two such bands. Úlfarr are from the rolling hills of Cumbria and play depressive black metal. They provide half of this split's eight songs. Hrafnblóð is a sole black metal entity from the Midlands. The four songs that Hrafnblóð contribute are the band's last recorded songs. This split CD has been released by UKEM Records and is limited to 100 copies. It's selling fast!

Tracklist:-

1. Úlfarr - Intro
2. Úlfarr - Laid To Rest
3. Úlfarr - Forgotten By Time
4. Úlfarr - Cold in Death II
5. Hrafnblóð - Lif and Lifþrasir
6. Hrafnblóð - Descent of The Black Fog
7. Hrafnblóð - Fires of Dresden
8. Hrafnblóð - Englaland 

Wulfhere begins with an atmospheric and instrumental intro from Úlfarr, which heralds their side of the split. It's ambient and almost droning aesthetic is the perfect way to lull the listener in. Once the intro has finished, Úlfarr go straight into Laid To Rest. Their black metal sound is as evil as you’re likely to hear. The guitars provide the melody the drums, while hidden in the mix slightly, provide a great background and the gargled black metal vocals add intensity. For a depressive black metal band, Úlfarr also plays with progression and lengthy songs. Both Laid To Rest and Forgotten By Time are over nine minutes in length.

Forgotten By Time follows on instantly and builds is a more subtle way. The guitar led ambience opens it and then fades out to reveal another DSBM hymn. The riffs are shrouded in noise as well, so they don't sound to precise or clean. As a result, it makes Úlfarr sound more organic and give them more expression. This song does have a slower pace too it. It's not as immediate as Laid To Rest, but does retain some pacier moments, where the cymbals can be heard crashing and the kick drum is more prominent. The bass is more prominent too, adding more weight to the low-end of the song. It fits in well with the symphonic elements of the guitar. The song is also more instrumental which shows off Úlfarr's for expansive sound. Cold In Death II provides some respite with a nicely played interlude featuring melodic leads and gentle guitar. A great way to end Úlfarr's side.

Hrafnblóð don't mess around and hit the ground running with Lif and Lifþrasir. Hrafnblóð has a sound dominated by brass textures and drums, which seem to pulsate throughout. The vocals are growled but sound as though they are being whispered. The guitar provides riffs, which add to an all-encompassing sound. Where Úlfarr were raw and cold, Hrafnblóð are more melodic and warming. I'm a huge admirer of this type of black metal. It's great to hear music that wraps itself around you. Descent of The Black Fog does see Hrafnblóð taking a more menacing path, but the music still retains that majestic edge. The drums, while programmed, actually fit the music better.

Fires of Dresden begins with a sample featuring air-raid sirens, which seems fitting. The song itself starts with some great melodic guitar, which gives way to huge sounds riffs. The relentless battering from the drums continues to compete with the vocals, while a rare solo squeals through the thick noise. The spoken word section towards the end brings a haunting demise to the song. Hrafnblóð's final contribution is that of Englaland. It's a slower track that shows a different side to Hrafnblóð while still retaining that majestic quality. That majestic sound I was talking about is perfectly embodied within the mid-section of Englaland, where the instrumentation does the talking and hypnotises you. It's a great end to pretty staggering split release!

This split is probably the best split release of the year so far. That may be a bold statement but when you compare the stark/cold approach of Úlfarr against the more majestic/warm instrumentation of Hrafnblóð, you have the essence of an essential opus. Both bands perform with great integrity and personality. Hrafnblóð are the standout band for me personally, but the entire record has a special quality to it.

You can listen to Úlfarr's track Forgotten By Time on the UKEM Records website here - http://www.ukemrecords.co.uk/music/

You can listen to Hrafnblóð's side of the split on the band's Soundcloud page. They originally featured on the Geosceaftgast EP that was released in February - https://soundcloud.com/hrafnblod.

You can still purchase copies of the split CD from UKEM Records here - http://www.ukemrecords.co.uk/store/.

No comments:

Post a comment