Werian – Animist (2019) REVIEW

With neither respect nor any particular discernment in their worldwide campaign of cultural decimation the spreading virus of violent Christendom would land upon the old Saxon shamanic rituals and philosophy with reductive, uncouth misanthropy. Yet it would be those deleterious and forceful zealots that would first recognize and give name to the ‘heathendom’ of Germanic paganism and magic ritual. No more universal truth exists among attempted early societies of mankind than the keystone of animatism and animism as the first shared beliefs to offer explanation for the consistency of natural phenomenon. Though animatism was essentially humanity’s first crack at scientific thought, a tradition that would quietly live on until natural philosophy would be replaced by practical scientific methodology and horrendous monotheistic depravity, animism was more of a quasi-religious philosophy. Personae, spirit, and intent were applied to forces of nature that’d lay basis for pantheism and naturalist worship among Germanic tribes and Anglo-Saxons alike. Invocations of these gods by way of shamanic trance were not always purely religious, or ritualistic, necessity but complex divinations that sought transhumanist perspective through those natural gods worshiped. Though lycanthropy exists in various legend, heroic ancestral worship, and ritual across several European pre-monotheistic cultures the Germanic lunar cultists seeking to gain aspect of wolf through a combination of guided hallucination and warjaną (werian, to wear the animals skin) were said to achieve literal transformation into wolf. These deep roots of Germanic paganism inspire not only the subject matter of Thuringia, Germany based project Werian but their ritualistic, freely-formed psychedelia and atmospheric black/doom expression.

Each release from the (assumed) trio since formation in 2009 reflects a gain in collective lucidity of forms aided by the mystic tonality provided by an insistence upon the live recording format. Extended compositions appear conjured from the height of ritual jam sessions beginning with the conceptual birth of ‘Werian’ (2011), an initially vinyl-only demo release; There it most clearly appears that atmospheric black metal (see: Mosaic) influenced musicians met with doom-like intent of feeling and a slight glimpse of peyote fueled desert jam around the edges. Werian‘s ‘Among Humans’ (2014) demo would follow and there fans of Yith‘s crushing blackened doom would feel most comfortable in its deathly-warm, ranting style. Therein lay a sound and compositional approach that appeared satisfactory as general structure for how Werian would proceed into the future. The release of a rehearsal demo, ‘Blade of Heresy’ (2016), would provide some general provenance today as it appears in highly refined form as one third of the bands debut full-length ‘Animist’. The second third would appear in similarly limited fashion as a nascent form of “March Through Ruins” would grace the ‘Samhain Celebration MMXVII’ (2017) compilation along with tracks from Malokarpatan and Forndom among others. Up to this point we’d largely only heard professionally cleaned-up rehearsal recordings from the band and this ‘organic’ recording situation remains an important part of Werian‘s ethos as ‘Animist’ materializes.

Recorded live in studio, where Venenum would track ‘Trance of Death’ a few years previous, ‘Animist’ strikes an exceptional balance between otherworldly atmospherics and realism-based recording techniques that provide a ‘hand-crafted’ feeling to Werian‘s debut. Though the sound of this debut is beautifully rendered with blackened grit and the generous auditory hum of psychedelic doom the resultant pieces do not merely rejoice in tonal excess but create a meandering rhythmic experience that is as harrowing as it is gloriously bemusing. There is a fiery psychic lineage among the neo-psychedelia influenced, jazz-fusion capable extreme metal musician that can be traced from early Obliveon through later Morbus Chron and now perhaps given third reincarnation in the rhythms of Werian‘s debut. It is uncanny that, perhaps by complete coincidence, that this band would wander freely into the rhythmic territory of an auld and obscured album like ‘From This Day Forward’ through ritual jam and psychotropic spiritual assistance. I found myself immediately grafted to “Hex” from the first and beyond the twentieth spins of its dark, doomed movements. There is an ecstasy imbued into the guitar work that is inspiring as it is revelatory beyond what psychedelia has perhaps ever done for atmospheric black metal; This atmosphere isn’t as dark and insidious as Saturnalia Temple, nor it it as expansive as Oranssi Pazuzu yet ‘Animist’ feels just as engorged with spiritual intoxication. There is an intimacy inherent to the full listen that is entirely unique to Werian.

The listening experience leads with atmosphere and develops a deep psychedelic wanderlust to the point of awe in the first two songs. “Hex” is spellbinding whereas “Blade of Heresy” puppets the (in trance) listener’s senses towards introspection. Where I feel the intoxication ring too far comes with the excess of “March Through Ruins”; The 17+ minute track is an experience in and of itself that doesn’t wield that same exact magic that’d relate it with with the seeming intended pair of the first two tracks. It all works beautifully on this 45+ minute album but I felt myself eventually needing a mid-song break as “March Through Ruins” played. The greater refinement and progression of this trio’s work from 2011 through 2019 is already remarkably well-shaped into this debut and though this creates wildly high expectation for a follow-up, I feel strong appreciation and connection with ‘Animist’ even when voiding my memory of the span of their career thus far. It is a fantastic full listen that I found myself prone to repeat 2-3 times in succession over the course of an evening throughout much of January. I am confident in its lasting value and unique artistic qualities enough to give my highest recommendation for ‘Animist’, especially for fans of extreme psychedelia-infused metal. For preview I believe Eisenwald have put up “Hex” and I’d concur that this is the best point of introduction to the full listen.

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Artist Werian
Type Album
Released February 22, 2019
BUY & LISTEN on Eisenwald’s Bandcamp! Follow Werian on Facebook
Genre Atmospheric Black Metal,
Psychedelic Doom Metal

Weal of the land, woe of the spirit. 5.0/5.0

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