There are a few genres of bands getting better. There’s the “I couldn’t stand this band before but is a true 180 degrees”. There’s the “they used to be good, then they sucked and now they’re back”. But my absolute favorite is those bands who released albums you almost really, really liked and ended up just being OK with. Their music was fine but it didn’t leave a mark with you. But now, now they’ve released something new and everything you wanted them to do differently on that previous release, everything you thought would make them great instead of just good, has been done and you’re blown away. That’s the story of my relationship with Windfaerer.
These guys have been releasing music for a while now, almost ten years to be exact. On paper, they had everything that I love; they make a sort of energetic atmospheric black metal, shying away from long mood setters in favor of intense composition and breakneck transitions. They also have a great string section, adding a folky flair to the whole thing. But their previous full-length release, Tenebrosum, left me feeling like the rest of their discography had. Sure, it was good but there was something missing, just shy of that click that makes you fall in love with an album. That’s what makes Alma so damn pleasing to me; I’ve fallen in love with it instantaneously, ever since the excellent Avantgarde Music released it a few days ago.
I can’t quite put my finger on what’s changed; the basic formula is the same. To wit, Windfaerer create an irresistible atmosphere with their sound. The guitars can play the fast-paced riffs that gave black metal its signature taste but also erupt into wild solos, like on the second half of “Dawn of Phantom Light”, the opening track. The vocals also play a huge part of this, deep and throaty as they are, almost reminding us of the echo-y approach which Mithras took on their latest release. And, of course, the violin, which plays right alongside the chaos, adding another layer of ethereal notes to the already powerful mystique of the rest of the instrumentation.
And that’s maybe where Alma works for me more than the previous releases; everything seems to be baked better, soldered into a whole that flows and moves with more elegance. The strings in particular feel like less of a separate entity. They don’t just embellish or extrapolate, they’re an intrinsic part of the compositions and what this album has to say. The end result is music which is more engaging and effective; instead of splitting the listener’s attention into what the strings are doing and what the rest of the band is doing, the different parts, on the compositional level, are more complementary and cohesive. This doesn’t mean that Alma is simpler; on the contrary, it’s an intricate album with lots to listen to. But check out the opening to “Becoming”, the second track and listen to how the strings work with everything else on the intro, how they “serve up” the listener into the main riff. That’s what makes Alma so great and what enables me to finally say: I love Windfaerer.
Windfaerer was released on September 3rd via Avantgarde Music. You can head on over to the Bandcamp link above to grab it.