As of recently, it seems as if black metal and crust punk are stuck on somewhat of a collision course. The two, finding natural company in their respective fringe existences, slowly began to adopt one another’s aesthetics. Eventually, this led to the realization that not only were both genres built on a bleak, misanthropic visual representation, but on a shared musical basis as well. Soon, both black metal and crust punk began to openly embrace one another, taking cues from the other on how to make their music the maximum level of pained.
This led to a golden age for both, spearheaded by bands such as His Hero is Gone and quickly followed by such prominent acts as Darkthrone (2002, Hate Them, baby). The line between the two quickly became more and more blurred as this new style of “blackened crust” began to take root. Soon acts like Fall of Efrafa cropped up, acting as a solid middle finger to any who might doubt the unholy matrimony that was taking place. Bands, fans, and critics began to duly take notice, clamoring for more, ravishing in the new extremes that had been created. However, as with all new musical trends, desperation to fit what (seemingly) out of nowhere had become a popular new sound led to an oversaturation of said sound. Too many bands sought to claim the “blackened crust” or “neo crust” moniker and had sunk into the trap of simply throwing in the occasional tremolo riff so that they could fit the bill. It became difficult to sift through the endless Bandcamp pages to find the few gems left within but when one was finally found, it was truly a sight to behold.
Such is the case with Wildspeaker and their electric brand of environmentalist neo-crust. First debuting with their 2014 EP Revenge of the Hunted, Wildspeaker offers a sound that is familiarly doom oriented, but less pressed to join the “epic” side of their peers. This approach is reiterated upon with their latest release, Spreading Adder. Take, for example, opening track “Apparent Death”. The song, despite lasting only a mere 2 minutes, is performed at a lurching, cumbersome speed. This helps to frame an atmosphere for the tracks to follow, pulling the listener down into a dark, boggy zone from where they can properly empathize with Wildspeaker’s musical tone.
The strength of this tactic is then revealed as the band immediately uses that atmosphere to springboard into the next two tracks, which pick up at a much more d-beat oriented tempo. The band understands that their strength does not lie in the epic proportions of genre mainstays such as Nux Vomica, but rather in their more hardcore roots, and choose to respond accordingly. There are no widely shimmery, exploratory phrases. Instead there are compact, reasonably trimmed alternating bursts of blackened d-beat and doom, creating the atmospheres so pertinent to this genre through sheer aggression alone.
Part of this aggression is, as mentioned before, Wildspeaker drawing slightly more from straight hardcore and metalcore than some of their peers. This is evident on tracks like “One Sinking Stone”. It starts straight forward enough, opening with a lone guitar riff that oozes black metal, but as soon as the chugging of the second guitar, bass, and drum comes in, something changes. Suddenly that dark, simple black metal riff is met with an intense undertone of hardcore. This sensation lingers heavily until it finally explodes into a full hardcore onslaught at about the 1 minute mark, offering up something that Dwid Helion would not feel out of place on.
The beauty, however, lies in the fact that the second guitar now subtly sneaks in something of a black metal feel to the hardcore section, changing up the original dynamic of the song. It is because of this that when the song descends back into blast beats and tremolo picking it does not feel out of place but rather expected. It is in these subtleties, these gentle cues as to what is going to happen next, that Wildspeaker finds their strengths. Though they may constantly be moving at a hardcore pace, or at least with the clear vision of total hardcore force, Wildspeaker is always three steps ahead of the listener in masterfully creating an unseen atmosphere. It is not the kind of heavy handed, sole-focus approach of acts like Nux Vomica or Fall of Efrafa but it is just as effective, and would do them both proud.
With Spreading Adder, Wildspeaker finally hones the groove they have been developing since their inception. They may not make their atmospheric efforts as blatant as others, but they draw in the dark, mood ridden approach in a wholly unique way. Each song is a carefully crafted, subliminal piece meant to fit into the whole, constantly pushing the listener to dig into the true meat of every song. Wildspeaker has proven that they not only deserve a place in any good crust or black metal playlist as of right now, but are sure to remain relevant in the long-run conversation on neo-crust in general.
Spreading Adder sees release on June 23rd via Prosthetic Records. Head on over to the Bandcamp link above to pre-order it.