Black metal is a genre we don’t often delve into and when we do it’s typically with influence from other genres like post and prog metal. However, today we’re going to explore the atmospheric side of things in the light of Drudkh, Burzum and Hate Forest. Enter Walknut, a two man project from the glorious motherland of Russia. Consisting of members from Temnozor and Forest, Walknut’s style of atmospheric black metal is a little more in the vein of traditional black metal. You won’t find long, boring field recordings here. No, Graveforests and Their Shadows relies purely on its ability to captivate and mesmerize the listener with its instruments. Armed with a thick guitar tone and a distortion pedal cranked to 11, multi-instrumentalist Stringsskald (who did everything but the lyrics on this album) plays tremolo-picked riffs over blast beats and double bass of varying tempos, usually in the mid realm but often times opting for speed. While this may sound like every black metal band ever, the brilliance comes from its Burzum style and quality songwriting. Dark riffs are repeated over and over and passages typically last 1 to 2 minutes before fluidly transitioning into the next one. And yet… they never overstay their welcome. They’re long enough to evoke an isolated, cold atmosphere and short enough to avoid repetition ad nauseam. It’s songwriting at its finest to say the least.
Even with the superb instrumentation, the atmosphere couldn’t be as good as it is without the vocals. Normally I prefer the growls of death metal or the screams of metalcore, but here they are phenomenal. Stringsskald’s ghastly wails and screeches resonate throughout the dense atmosphere and while the lyrics of nature and mysticism written by other bandmate Ravnaskrik may not be the most original, they are certainly the most fitting for such a despaired voice.
All this talk is for naught without the actual songs so give the 11 minute beast “Come, Dreadful Ygg” a listen:
Right off the bat you can hear what a great job Stringsskald did with the production. It’s fairly clean by black metal standards, but is in no way overproduced or clean to the point lower fidelity production loses its ambiguity and haziness. Shortly after, the atmosphere begins to suck you in and by the time 3:53 rolls around you’re completely enveloped. Around 5:45 the song slows down to mid-tempo and stays consistent in pace ’till the end, rotating between 2 riffs and drum patterns occasionally. The last half is easily the best part of the song and showcases the intricacies of this album quite well.
The last song I’m going to show is one of the instrumentals titled “The Midnightforest of the Runes.” I’d love to post more music, but given that the album has only 6 songs (one of which is an ambient intro), I’d feel like I was spoiling the music if I did. Anyway, check it out:
Much like the end of the previous song, this one rotates between 2 passages as well: double bass with fast tremolo picking and a slower double bass with cymbal crashes and a mid-tempo tremolo-picked riff. Even without the haunting vocals this instrumental still manages to be as atmospheric as the rest of the album. I personally prefer the songs with vocals more than the ones without, but it’s a nice change of pace at the very least.
Some may call Graveforests and Their Shadows Burzum worship (and rightfully so), but I don’t really consider it a downside when the music you make is fucking great and in some cases is better than the work of the legend. Regardless of your stance on ‘worship’ bands, this album is absolutely fantastic and in my book is a classic. Will we ever see new material? I don’t exactly know. Metal Archives has them listed as ‘active’, but with a lack of any social media outlets that I’m aware of it’s hard to tell if they’re working on anything. It is, after all, a side project so at the very least new material will be slow.
In closing, pick this up if you like no bullshit atmospheric black metal. It’s an album that stays consistently good throughout its 43 minute run time. Every song is a highlight. Walknut have quickly become one of my favorite bands so I urge all of you who enjoyed the songs above to give Graveforests and Their Shadows a listen. You won’t be disappointed.