Spirit of the Seasons
14th Februrary, 2017 – Self-released
02. Bury Me in Furs
05. Spirit of the Seasons
06. Those Who Wander in Darkness
07. Demeter (The Search)
09. The Heron & The Beekeeper
10. The Dreaming Spires
The genre term ‘progressive’ is a very weighted one. It comes with expectations as to what the band or album will sound like. Often, simply having weird time signatures will be enough to give a band that tag. Others take a sonic template and expand on that sound, creating something entirely new through use of clever blends of sound, arrangement, and rhythm.
Progressiveness in black metal is an even more precarious notion. Purists deride any deviation from the standard formula, and everyone else seems to disagree on what progressive black metal actually sounds like.
While they don’t completely rewrite the book. British one-man band Wolfrost offer up a sonic palate that borrows from several different sources at once. Their debut album, Spirit of the Seasons, jumps out as largely influenced by Agalloch, and indeed that seems to be their biggest inspiration, particularly on the opening track “Beckoning”, but there is a lot more to this.album than meets the ear immediately.
While Agalloch are the most obvious comparison, you can also hear the influence of Opeth, notably on “Demeter (The Search)” which alternates between wintery black metal and heavier, folky prog. By contrast, “The Heron and the Beekeeper” is much more autumnal, utilising a very delicate acoustic and violin passage. The gentle introduction to “The Dreaming Spires” heralds none of the intensity of the rest of the album, instead combining gentle with rough in a fitting closing note for the album indeed – but lest you think this record is all gentler passages, like spiderwebs across the doorways, songs like “Horseman” give you a jolt of something faster and more base.
While the instrumentation is largely dominated by the usual suspects – distorted guitars, drums, and vocals – there are other little touches all over the album that add much more depth. The opening piano of “Beckoning” makes way for faint little synth lines in the background that add a celestial quality to the music.
Most of the time the vocals are a whispery sort of growl. This style really suits the music, however, sole member Haunter allows his vocals to take on different qualities depending on what the music calls for: he dips into more brutal death metal style growls on many tracks, and even the higher-pitched vocals take on a few different forms.
Avoiding an overly polished mix, Wolfrost instead aim for a sonic quality that could be described as “rough wood” – again, much like Agalloch, but’s it’s really quite interesting.. The clean and acoustic guitars and the bass guitar all sound really nice, and the piano that shows up from time to time adds a wonderful texture. Everything is given the space it needs to breathe, and the overall tone is warm and comforting.
Spirit of the Seasons is a solid album that combines influences from the folkier side of black metal, death metal, and progressive elements. It is a contemplative journey through natural and supernatural landscapes. Comparisons to Agalloch and pre-Heritage Opeth are never a bad thing, and Wolfrost deliver on that oaken, folky, progressive sound.