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Withered Land - The Endless Journey

Withered Land
The Endless Journey
by Ian Yera at 14 November 2021, 10:48 AM

WITHERED LAND  is another new Atmospheric Black Metal band, but this time they’re from Belarus. I’ve seen a lot of new American Black Metal lately, so it’s nice to hear something from a country that I can’t recall the last time I heard music from; especially something as fresh and interesting as this. Atmospheric Black Metal, Symphonic Black Metal, whatever you want to call this; is absolutely my favorite kind of Black Metal. Where most Black Metal is eternally sullen and grim, Atmospheric Black Metal tends to add a dash of hope into that sonic mix that gives it a very unique flavor. BURZAM might have started the gerne, but SUMMONING is the band that defined it, and the band after which all others would be compared. It’s probably a bit of a curse on people trying to break into that scene, that’s quite a legacy to live up to and in retrospect I have made quite a habit making the comparisons myself. As much as I love SUMMONING, they are not the future of Atmospheric Black Metal, bands like this are. WITHERED LAND reminds me of SOJURNER, which is definitely one of the most inspired black metal bands of the 21st century. Bands like CALADAN BROOD, UNTAMED LAND, and EMYN MUIL have all arisen to take the torch from SUMMONING, and Olga Kann is definitely reaching for those heights.

Everything about this album just hits me right, right off the bat. "Through the Misty Mountains" pairs beautiful strings with crushing vocals, ominous guitars and victorious horns. The orchestrations perfectly capture that Tolkien sense of wonder, beauty and danger all at once and lend a bit of authenticity to the effort. Hey MOONGATES GUARDIANS; you know what you’ve been trying to do since 2014? This is how you properly make Tolkien inspired Atmospheric Black Metal. The production is immaculate, I can actually hear every instrument and the symphonic elements and guitar riffs are equally audible (though perhaps the horns can overpower the mix at times). I applaud WITHERED LAND, Atmospheric Black Metal lives and dies on its production, and while it doesn’t need to be crystal clear, by definition the genre is dense and intricate, and your mix should represent that.

The songs largely follow the same format and I suppose this is one of those albums where it's not about the collection of songs; the full album is greater than the sum of its parts I suppose. As far as parts that stand out, I definitely think the book ends are my favorite tracks. Through the "Misty Mountains'' is the darkest song, but it also has the most beautiful orchestrations. "Death Was Always Near'' on the other hand is powerful and uplifting. It's the fastest track which doesn't always work in Atmospheric Black Metal, but the underlying beat never really changes. It's still in a slow 4/4, the kick drums are just hitting 16th notes instead of 8th notes. I think the need for hooks in the traditional sense is removed, because here we get memorable riffs, guitar solos and orchestral harmonies that, at least for me, make this album very much worth revisiting. The most important thing this album gets right is the variety of sections, they do a very good job of not relying on repetition, and when they do lean on it, they add layers to keep the music interesting and fresh.

This is the first time I think I’ve ever reviewed a project like this that was completely written and arranged by a woman, let alone one from Belarus and I think that’s fantastic. There’s so many one person projects out there, especially in black metal and with Black Metal having such a… shall we say troubled and misogynistic past I am entirely in favor of women reclaiming the genre and changing the perception that has existed since the 80s. Olga Kann is an incredibly talented songwriter and arranger and she should be proud of this work. I will be watching her career with great interest.

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

4 Star Rating

1. Through the Misty Mountains
2. Wraiths Surround us All
3. Mournful Story Never Ends
4. Over Distant Shores
5. Death Was Always Near
Olga Kann - all music, arrangements, lyrics, keys, bass
Alexander Rabets - vocals
Koliopanos Filippos - guitars
Record Label: Naturmacht Productions


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Edited 28 November 2021

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