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Bilwis – Pan

by Andrew Graham at 25 March 2022, 1:52 PM

Yet another one-man Black metal project makes its debut into the world. Hailing from Germany, BILWIS embarks upon a fascinating journey combining the classic blackened sound against choral and orchestral backdrops, creating a rich and deeply engaging tapestry of sound. Opening track “Sagenwelt” sets this scene very effectively, creating an almost folkish atmosphere. “Wassermann” opens in a manner not entirely unlike similarly Symphonic Black metal acts like EMPEROR.  Bouncing between discordant themes, the listener gets a fair bit of variety here. There’s classic Black metal and (almost) gentle folkish melodies. We’re off to a strong start! “Schlafes Bruder” opens with chiming bells before descending into a dense soundscape of haunting melody and chorus. It’s a dense sound with lots to notice and pick out (deeply satisfying for a nerd like myself!) There’s even that elusive beast (at least when it comes to Black metal): a guitar solo!

“Azrael” is an acoustic interlude, which serves to remind the listener of that almost ethereal folkish quality present here. “Der Mond Am Himmel” develops this acoustic thread, with the sound of wind and wolves howling building up atmosphere before erupting into an intensely melodic anthem featuring (what sounds like) female guest vocals. It’s definitely the high point of the album, a genuine belter! With chiming bells and angelic voices closing the track, it really achieves an epic quality that much Black metal simply doesn’t quite manage.

“Wieland” further develops what, by this point in the album, has evolved into quite a far-reaching and extensive style. This is not a straightforward Black metal album. Many other influences and creative touches weave their way throughout. “Walpurgisnacht” revisits the melodic quality seen earlier (methinks the Gothenburg crowd might recognise a kindred spirit here!) Structurally also it is quite complex. The switching between harsh, Black metal bombast and gentle acoustic contemplation, by this point familiar to the listener, provides the listener with a freeform musical backdrop against which to project their own thinking, rather than a prescriptive and formulaic guided tour.

The final track, “Pan” opens with the same sort of grand, yet disturbing, choral voices that opened the album. What sounds like a harp can be heard plucking away solemn notes in the background, while tortured vocals occupy centre-stage. At over sixteen minutes, this is an epic track. There is always a danger with these longer tracks (at least in genres not traditionally suited to such length – lest the Prog metallers accuse of me of being a troglodyte!) that its simply rambles on and on. Bilwis has managed, however, to effectively fill the time.

This really is a fascinating debut, and a really good one to boot! Black metal with a deeply thoughtful and introspective tang, this will be of great interest to those Black metal fans looking for something that goes a bit beyond conventional boundaries. Though not quite venturing out into that ‘Post-‘ territory, there are certainly enough unique features and stylistic foibles to warrant repeated listens.

Songwriting: 8
Musicianship: 8
Memorability: 8
Production: 7

4 Star Rating

1. Sagenwelt
2. Wassermann
3. Schlafes Bruder
4. Azrael
5. Der Mond Am Himmel
6. Wieland
7. Walpurgisnacht
8. Pan
Bilwis – All instruments
Record Label: Northern Silence Productions


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Edited 02 December 2022

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