WEALD AND WOE – The Fate of Kings and Men (2020)REVIEW

When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” — In death, drying rot and all other manner of crumbling detritus released into geologic time there can be no earnest juxtaposition between the sentient (poison) and the inanimate (chaff), all gathers into the same fire below. If your betrothed role on Earth is inevitably a wrathful factory of fæces then consider simplifying all goals in life to experience a minimum of pain and fear, sans delusional achievement of either, and embracing aponia. Take no measure of hedonism in this pursuit but, the body viewed as a noxious and fuming heap of manipulation that is best constrained to an oculus, a wandering eye in public and a minstrel in private. See forever through the tunnel vision of your short, absolutely irreconcilably meaningless life and sing it’s sorrow until this highest of bodily pleasure is achieved. In practicum: To see every untouched mountain in Idaho is to know a very private crown upon our region of the planet, a blast of country sized volcanic events that surged its own mouth unto the ocean. What reasonable man could contain the internal existential response to this beauty without crystallizing said majesty into his own idiosyncratic expression? In the case of folkish melodic black metal project Weald and Woe their first gemstone resultant, ‘The Fate of Kings and Men‘ sets a mountain-flung bird’s eye view upon the strictures of society, the walled-in spirit, and the follies of this entrapment.

A solo/side-project formed by Boise area musician Artos a couple of years ago Weald and Woe could only have become a “calling” to have achieved such a complete first full-length so quickly. The first EP (‘Eternal Grave‘, 2018) was admittedly somewhat rough, cleanly rendered and the idea of the project was generally formed but the vocals were yet inconsequential; Their cavernous affect didn’t accentuate the shapes the guitar put forth and felt a bit too much like bedroom black metal gasps. Not a slight on my part but again, nothing amazing. Those folds have largely been ironed with each subsequent release, though the vocals aren’t especially effective in conveyance of emotion or lyric on ‘The Fate of Kings and Men’ they are more distinct and expressive throughout. Although still aided by members of his heavy/power metal band By Fire & Sword for live events Artos is essentially a one man band if we can consider anonymous drummer Maelstrom‘s work on this record (plus a Split with Candlewolf Disciple in April of this year) session work. I point this out largely for the sake of finding the end result impressive but also to namedrop his other band, who’re well worth checking out. It is yet independent, by and large do-it-yourself music, that doesn’t always manage a truly original sound but serves as an entry into a form of under-served and triumphant black metal music.

If I had to be reductive, and I’ll have to be in order to point folks in the right direction, you’ll find the ingredients of (early) Obsequiae distilled into a simpler potency in witnessing the most instantly appealing side of Weald and Woe. There is yet a fine line to draw here as we consider Midwest melodic black/death metal, “medieval” melodic devices, epic black metal, and some French counterpart lineage the last several decades. No great dissection is necessary as most of the songs here are developed for the sake of memorable harmonized guitar work or melodic riffing that is distinct to a style represented by just a few artists. On the second side of the record “The Land of Forgotten Sons” provides the first notion of this as develops a rhythm vaguely influenced by Obsequiae with its development of triumphant leads, once this piece shows up the guitar technique of the album finishes foreshadowing its main event and begins to scale upwards in realization of “Sacrifices”, a song even more clearly inspired by the Minneapolis-area fixture sans harp and/or classical guitar movements. If we must define this arena, which could also vaguely include acts like Flamen, Véhémence and Darkenhöld, let it be castelian black metal rather than the somewhat unfitting “medieval” label which emphasizes polyphony, and reduces the rich breadth of medieval music to a millionth of its deserved legacy. Placing Weald and Woe into this context, look to “The Seer and the Bird” as it breaks into Forefather-esque riffing, emphasizing the folkish melodic black metal lean of the first half of album that isn’t always directly comparable to albums like ‘Suspended in the Brume of Eos’.

Though it may not be the most original record you’ll hear this year the experience doesn’t suffer for it thanks to the aforementioned stoic melodic guitar leads that capably lead the charge as the second half of the album approaches. The first few pieces are somewhat more raw, arriving with black metal intensity and form before opening up into blackened death metal riffs. The effect isn’t exactly ‘Verwustung / Invoke The Dark Age’ but does have some of that early 90’s shroud and intensity. This opening salvo of 3-4 songs ends up being a more vital for lending some depth and lifespan to the full album once the mind can be distracted from the second half. Those early pieces ultimately end up representing the most interesting material from Weald and Woe thus far, it just might take a few spins to see their worth as readily as the rest. If the ‘The Fate of Kings and Men’ didn’t eventually develop those melodic Obsequiae-isms along the way it wouldn’t be any less interesting but it might’ve been less immediate in impact. I’m not necessarily conflicted in terms of the trade-off, for a debut full-length the overall effect is desirous, captivating and split directly in half between triumphant rawness and lead-driven hooks. An experience practically screaming to be a tape or vinyl record. A fantastic first rise of their banners and a stellarly full listen. A moderately high recommendation.

Moderately high recommendation. (70/100)

Rating: 7 out of 10.
TITLE:The Fate of Kings and Men
LABEL(S):Self-Released [CD],
Folkvangr [Cassette]
RELEASE DATE:October 23rd, 2020
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp [All Formats]
GENRE(S):Black Metal,
Melodic Black Metal,
Folk/Black Metal

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