August 13, 2011

Walden - Beyond The Landscapes Of Man (Review)

Beyond The Landscapes Of Man Cover Art
Walden - Beyond The Landscapes Of Man

Hailing from Victoria, BC is a band called Walden, an up and coming atmospheric black metal act that takes its name from Thoreau's manifest on living as one with nature. Although the majority of this two person band's material could be said to follow much in the same vein as Burzum's black metal material, this EP- entitled 'Beyond The Landscapes Of Man'- is a momentary retreat from black metal, in favour for a neofolk sound. Like many other bands in the often self-referential 'Cascadian Black Metal' scene, Walden holds a strong bond with the sounds of folk and nature even in their heavier material, so them doing a folkier album seems like a fairly natural experiment. Although very rough around the edges, this is an enjoyable pair of tracks that shows a different side to the band's work.

A collaboration between the two musicians calling themselves Smeagol and Festus respectively, there are some pretty interesting things going on with 'Beyond The Landscapes Of Man'. As one might expect, the sound is dominated by light acoustic guitars, although to underline the bond these musicians have with their natural surroundings, some atypical instruments have been used, most notably a hollow log, which is used to make some interesting percussion. Also here are some chanting vocals, which obviously do not work quite as well as Walden may have expected them to, although they do not necessarily sound out of place in the music.

The first track here 'Beyond...' is certainly the weaker of the two, generally introducing the listener to the sound here; something that instantly brings to mind Agalloch's 'White EP', or even the work of Canadian neofolk artist Musk Ox. In any case, the track does seem to wander a bit and the ideas don't feel as if they go anywhere, although the sound itself is properly defined. However, the second track 'An Old Cabin High In The Hills' saves the EP and more, building up with a fairly optimistic sounding acoustic strum pattern before fading out. 

Walden's acoustic experiment here is very promising, although on its own, this does feel quite rough, and especially towards the first half of the material, some revisions in the songwriting would have served the music well. Walden has latched onto something here however, and it would be very interesting to see what they could do with this on a second acoustic effort, or- better yet- integrating it with their existing black metal sound.

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