Wolvserpent- Perigaea Antahkarana

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Monday, October 7, 2013

Wolvserpent is a band that I have heard a lot about over the last year or so but haven’t had a chance to fully explore until now. About two weeks ago the doom/drone group released Perigaea Antahkarana via Relapse Records, an ambitious five song effort that spans an hour and twenty minutes in length. While there are certainly plenty of acts out there that create music that go for lengthier drone and doom, what makes Wolvserpent distinguishable is that each of the songs on this release offers arrangements that head in completely different directions while still maintaining a consistent feeling of dread. It’s an effort that will surely take listeners a good deal of time to fully grasp everything that is happening, but it’s worth taking the opportunity to do so as this is yet another stellar release from Relapse Records.

Perigaea Antahkarana begins with a close to four minute instrumental track that has an eerie melody and crows cawing in the background. It isn’t uncommon for drone and doom acts to start off with an intro of some kind, but the way that this one was laid out made Wolvserpent come off as ominous right from the start. From there “Within the Light of Fire” kicks in, and what becomes clear throughout its sixteen and a half minute running time is that this group is capable of offering plenty of twists and turns per track. The piece begins with a mid-tempo section that has more of a ritualistic feel, transitions into much slower territory for a little bit, and about halfway in switches over to a lead riff that has a surprising amount of groove. I was a bit surprised the first time I heard it, as the instrumental work is still able to maintain a very eerie and desolate feel even when it heads in this direction by placing keyboard melodies over top of the guitar work. Wolvserpent continues these types of transitions for the remaining three songs, hitting some post rock and black metal tonality on “In Mirrors of Water” and stretching out the droning passages on “A Breath in the Shade of Time”. Each piece truly feels like a journey into the unknown, and I found discovering the nuances of each track to be a truly captivating experience. It did take some time to fully absorb everything though, as this is some dense material that incorporates so many different stylistic elements that it might take a couple of spins to fully grasp all of it. I haven’t even brought up the fact that in addition to the keyboards, violin and viola are used frequently throughout the material which gives the songs a completely different sound and overall feel from what one might typically associate with doom. The two words that often came to mind when I was listening to Perigaea Antahkarana were sprawling and sweeping, as the music often built to stunning climaxes and towering levels of sound in a similar fashion to post rock or even orchestral scores which helped to really draw me in to the different elements the band was channeling from one moment to the next.

Brittany McConnell and Blake Green both provide vocal work throughout the course of the album, and it tends to skew towards the harsher end of the spectrum. Rather than towering over the instrumental work and really dominating the recording, the screams and growls have been mixed so that they just barely break through the layers of sound. I really liked this approach, as sometimes these harsher ranges can be so overpowering that they make it difficult to focus on what else is happening on an album. McConnell does move away from some of the lower ranges at key moments, heading into cleaner territory that has a bit more of an ethereal sound that weaves in and out of the instrumental work. But aside from these sections, harsh and terrifying performances are the order of business on this album and Wolvserpent is able to make the most of them and even turns some of their softer, melancholic sections into apocalyptic spectacles through the use of extremely distorted and tortured screams. This may not seem like that big of a deal, especially since just about every band of this type goes for extreme vocal styles, but it really adds that extra burst of intensity that helps to put this material over the edge.

I could talk about Perigaea Antahkarana for even longer as there are so many different things happening throughout its hour and twenty minute running time, but hopefully I have portrayed it well enough that listeners who are interested in this type of thing will be able to grasp the rest of the nuances from actually experiencing the record for themselves. Wolvserpent has created a truly stunning piece of work that encompasses a lot of familiar elements from genres like doom, black metal, drone, and even orchestral/classical pieces without ever falling completely into any single one of those categories. At times the material can almost be overwhelming with how many elements are packed into each song, but that was also one of the reasons I enjoyed the album and delving further into each one with each subsequent listen. Relapse Records has already had an incredible year in this space with releases from Inter Arma and Windhand, and we can now add Wolvserpent to that list as they are another band that really seems to be moving far beyond the boundaries typically associated with doom, drone, and all the other sub-genres that come along with it.

http://www.relapse.com

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