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Untamed Land - Like Creatures Seeking Their Own Form Award winner

Untamed Land
Like Creatures Seeking Their Own Form
by Ian Yera at 14 November 2021, 10:24 AM

Since about 2010 Atmospheric Black Metal as a genre has really exploded. So many new and innovative bands are taking the structure provided by bands like SUMMONING, and BATHORY to create something incredibly epic and cinematic. That's really what atmospheric black metal is, cinematic black metal… Well sometimes. Now there's such a variety of what is titled atmospheric black metal that the label has really broadened. My preferred style is exactly what Summoning and their offspring do. Since 2013 we've had CALADAN BROOD, EMYN MUIL and now UNTAMED LAND all trying their hardest to imitate SUMMONING, and yet add their own flair to the sound. Last year saw EMYN MUIL release their second LP and one of the best albums of the year. While EMYN MUIL is basically just modern Summoning, UNTAMED LAND has a unique twist to add; it's summoning but with spaghetti western themes. It's actually quite brilliant and I thought their first album Between Winds was great, but Like Creatures Seeking Their Own Form takes all the excellence and potential and takes it to the next level (as a sophomore album should).

Between Winds was more straightforward, more aggressive and marching. There was less dynamic range, and a lot more riffs and uptempo synth work. Like Creatures Seeking Their Own Form is more subtle; more subdued, and more intricate.  While it's less grandiose on the surface, the way they build up to the climaxes on this album is just magnificent. This is also a much shorter album, without the two shorter version tracks, it comes out to about 45 minutes. Because of that I think the two 10+ minute epics stand out a bit more than on the previous album. “Heavenly Coil” is such a great way for Patrick Kern to show how much he's improved, his songwriting is a lot tighter and less reliant on repetition.

“Once Upon a Time In The Kenoma” is beautiful, no better way to describe it. It introduces the main melody that will repeat as a leitmotiff throughout the album. I just need to gush for a moment about how much I love when bands do this; creating a simple melody to base an entire album on with variations throughout is just great songwriting and Kern gets a lot of props for it here. “A Nameless Shape” actually starts things off with a march, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d accidentally put on an ATLANTEAN KODEX album, but once the keys join the mix it is unmistakably UNTAMED LAND. The first couple songs remind me the most of BETWEEN WINDS, but you can already tell he’s going for a different tone, replacing repetition with more sections and more transitions. What really makes the difference though here is the way they use acoustic passages. There’s a lot more contrast between sections on this album with soft acoustic sections building the way for big epic verses creating an excellent contrast. Unfortunately I think the memorability suffers a little bit for all the beauty in transition. The hooks aren’t as pronounced on this album in general, so while the songwriting is tighter and more varied, the hooks get less attention.

Instantly “Heavenly Coil'' is my favorite song Patrick Kern has written. Obviously I like the longer songs in general, but this one especially has so many twists and turns, not to mention the transitions are perfect. The introduction is dark and tense which juxtaposes really well against the second half and even moreso the ending. About 5 minutes in is where the song really starts to pick up with the first development section. The repetition here is used beautifully, adding layers and building up the sound with every new repeat. The dark and cold riffs of the first section give way to beautiful orchestration outlining a beautiful morning sunrise across the fields and planes of midwestern America. I can imagine Clint Eastwood riding his pale white horse across plains and valleys with the early sun slowly rising to meet him. Then at seven minutes in, the rider arrives at his destination and probably has a shootout with some outlaws. It’s not really dark enough to feel like Tombstone, more El Dorado or Silverado with the grandiose trumpets announcing a heroic victory, and the main character probably picks up his love interest and rides off into the sunset with her. This music is all about that romanticization of 19th century western America and no music I’ve ever heard has captured that feel so brilliantly. The dark riffs and harsh vocals, juxtaposed against the beautiful strings and soaring trumpet and occasionally funky organ really brings the aesthetic to life.

I remember when I found UNTAMED LAND initially back in 2018, it was the year of a new SUMMONING album which somehow always seems to lead to an explosion of new Atmospheric Black Metal in the year. Between Winds ended up being my favorite black metal album of the year and being such a huge Summoning fan I was blown away by Kern’s ability to write Summoning-esque music and add his own unique flair with the Western themes and aesthetic. About the only complaint I can really come up with for this album is; where did the organ go? There was so much organ presence on Between Winds and here it’s something that only shows up a few times, it’s great of course when it joins the party, but I could use more of it personally. Overall I cannot recommend UNTAMED LAND enough, even if you’re not a big Summoning fan, give this a try you might like it more, especially with how pristine the production is.

Songwriting: 9
Musicianship: 9
Memorability: 8
Production:10

4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Once Upon a Time in the Kenoma
2. A Nameless Shape
3. Clothed in Smoke
4. The Heavenly Coil
5. Achamōth
6. A Nameless Shape (Shortened Version)
7. The Heavenly Coil (Shortened Version)
Lineup:
Patrick Kern - Everything
Record Label: Napalm Records
     


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Edited 28 November 2021
 

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