Saturday, February 5, 2011

WAIL - Wisdom through Agony into Illumination and Lunacy (2009)

The title of Wisdom Through Agony Into Illumination and Lunacy is a bit more than a mouthful, and frankly I think a lot of bands reach a little too far with such acronyms. What would have been wrong with just Wail? It's a good word, a word of suffering, of torment, of ghosts drifting through the midnight fogs. Granted there's not a lot of wails to be found here on their debut, but they've got negative emotions ins spades. Originally released only on LP, but now given a second chance through Ahditsuken Aihio with a new remastered CD edition with appropriately gloomy new artwork, the album is one of the better I've heard in recent years at fusing the genres of death, black and doom metal into a cohesive journey into shadow.

Massive, muddy walls of tone inebriate the Finnish band's versatile compositions, and they are gifted in their ability to present a 10-13 minute track that never repels or alienates the attentive listener. From the light, ritual fuzz of "Initiation" with its distant, despairing vocal and ominous piano tones, it is clear that WAIL is trying to hypnotize you, to great effect, and the mere bass line that opens "Wisdom" transforms into a 10+ minute testimonial of crushing, atmospheric death/doom with decaying, thick riffs that will instantly brew bad luck and black clouds above you. Ditto for "Agony" with the steady, rolling drum march that inaugurates its dire, plucked melodic resonance and deep digging ancient doom riffs. "Illumination" channels a monolithic, downtrodden riff into dissonant grace, while the enormous and varied "Lunacy" (13+ minutes) hashes together anything from swerving, primal schizoid thrash to desolate expanses of clean guitars and bass, picking up into a near refrain of the album's intro before some closing, distorted guitars that manifest in hideous waves of oppressive, metallic pyschedelia.

So don't be put off by the shoddy acronym, because the actual musical content here is well worth a listen if you missed its original release. The bleak, curious artwork and lyrical admonishments are perfectly suited to its sound, and it's great to hear another Finnish band taking a chance with this combination, and pulling it off nearly as well as their more admittedly horror-pulp starved, less philosophical countrymen Hooded Menace. Wisdom Through Agony Into Illumination is raw, powerful, cryptic and yet strangely memorable, and should serve the band well within the expanding popularity of obscure, atmospheric death metal sounds which summon up the spirits of the genres' progenitors and embellish them with an even ghastlier pallor.

Verdict: Win [8/10]
(and what I found was oceanwide)

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