Posted by: Necci – Jul 23, 2012
Not to sound like I rely too heavily on snap judgments and preconceptions, but if somebody had told me this morning that by the time the sun had set I'd be giving a good review to a folk/black metal band from New Jersey I don't know that I would've believed them. New Jersey's not exactly the first place that comes to mind when I think of black metal hotbeds and, while I like the idea of incorporating acoustic instrumentation into metal, most folk-metal influenced material that I've heard ends up bogged down in Ren Faire silliness. Listening to Windfaerer's sophomore release, however, these preconceived opinions fall to the wayside right off the bat.
Theirs seems like a simple enough formula – triumphant, atmospheric black metal with a violinist who bolsters' the songs highly-developed melodic content. But unlike so many of the self-consciously atmospheric bands that have popped up in recent years who want little more than to be the next Weakling, Windfaerer don't bother with low-fidelity recordings or blurry ambience. The emphasis lies with an ever-shifting mood – the songs are fast but employ a wide variety of rhythmic devices rather than relying wholly on blastbeats, they're melodic without the heaviness or aggression being tempered, they employ the violin without it seeming like a cheap gimmick. My one bit of constructive criticism lies with the album's production. While there's not specifically anything wrong with it, it seems a bit sterile and clean, and could benefit from a little bit of grit. But the power of the material outshines such small concerns.
The band gives off some disparate impressions with Solar as well, which can be a bit strange but not so much that the album's merits are at all diminished. First, given the band's penchant for galloping mid-tempo parts, it would be hard to believe the members didn't have a few Bathory albums in their collections. A great deal of the album has the triumphant Viking feel that characterized the best moments of Quorthon's songwriting. But then the violin can at times imbue the music with an almost Celtic feel. And lest the whole thing start seeming like it's coalescing into some larger paean to Northern and Western European Paganism, apparently a considerable amount of inspiration was drawn from guitarist Michael Gonçalves' Portugese ancestry. Granted, the first two of these components are based on little more than the overall sound the band has, so they could be completely off-base, but I like the idea of some assertion of commonality between cultures that might otherwise be seen as incompatible.
In a scene where it seems like everybody's trying to out-evil, out-weird, or out-controversy each other, it's refreshing to encounter a band that's not image-driven or contrived. Windfaerer's approach is honest, simple, and unfortunately rare, a combination of spectacular musicianship, compelling songwriting, and enough unexpected detours to keep it interesting without derailing the whole endeavor. It's entirely possible that I might hear a better black metal album this year, but so far I haven't heard one that can touch Solar.
By Graham Scala