Azimuths to the Otherworld

Written by: EW on 06/03/2010 21:12:01

The US label Bindrune Recordings has suddenly been thrust into my consciousness with a collection of releases brought to life under the label's ethos of releasing "original works by artists not afraid to push the limits, and embrace the sometimes beautiful, often destructive side of music". Through listening to the brand new albums from Blood of the Black Owl, Celestiial and Nechochwen it is hard to disagree with such a statement for all three lie outside of normal genre conventions, thus aligning themselves more closely with the original template of black metal, from which they all derive varying levels of influence, than many more typical BM acts of today.

First up, Nechochwen. Of West Virginian descent and formed in 2005, the band is the creation of a man known also as Nechochwen, with "Azimuths to the Otherworld", his/their 2nd full length; a vast and emotional exploration of Native American Indian heritage built upon a tapestry of classical acoustic guitar interspersed with sporadic moments of earthy, heathen-istic pagan/black metal. If that sounds a bit daunting to you then fear not as it might just be worth your investigation anyway: for someone like me coming from my background of metal uber-fandom it is intriguing to hear the genre being stretched and manipulated with different influences to end up with a record which refuses to be categorised.

At 14 songs and 59 minutes long, "Azimuths..." is a demanding listen, and one possibly best broken up. Opener "Allumhammochwen: The Crossing" does not fully indicate the path yet trodden: spoken word and soft classical strumming lead into an enticing and approachable blackened metal spell touching on the sounds of Drudkh, Fen, Wolves in the Throne Room and old Ulver. This section resembles one of a relatively few moments in which Nechochwen spends concerted time in metal territories against the backdrop of brooding and natural acoustic guitar, but it does go to show his compositional awareness in doing so, a fact I sadly found lacking in Ironwood's very similarly styled album, ":Fire:Water:Ash:", of last year.

Referencing Opeth in an album so rich in acoustic and classic dynamics is virtually unavoidable, and though I would not label the Swedes a major influence on "Azimuths..." I would suggest fans of their older material in particular check out songs here like "Gissis Mikana" and "Red Ocher" as something they might strongly appreciate. In a nod to classic albums like "My Arms, Your Hearse", the excellent mix here allows the fragile, ethereal acoustics to sit nigh on perfectly against the harsher metal elements when they do appear, with "Confluence" a fine example of this. To anyone who knows my tastes they should not be surprised when I state my preference for the moments of greater vigour in songs like "Confluence" and "Four Effigies" which possesses a heaving doom metal core once it comes to full-blooded life.

"Azimuths to the Otherworld" is very much an album created for the joy of performing such music; not for meeting the needs of a defined audience. As such a grading becomes a little obtuse, but to assign one to this piece of art it needs to be said that there is great emotional depth to be found in these tomes, however recommending it whole-heartedly to a metal fanbase is difficult such is the sporadic use of metal dynamics within the classical template. Nevertheless, a highly interesting album that stands proudly different from anything else.

Download: Allumhammochwen: The Crossing, Graves Of Grandeur, Four Effigies
For The Fans Of: Drudkh, Ironwood, Wolves in the Throne Room
Listen: Myspace

Release date: 01.03.2010
Bindrune Recordings

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