Alda
A Distant Fire

I’ve enjoyed Tacoma Washington’s Alda for a few albums now, particularly 2011s :Tahoma: and 2015s Passage, their last effort, on a match made in heaven label, Bindrune Recordings. But after 6 years of silence, and a split from Bindrune, I wasn’t sure where the band was at, considering some of their peers (Panopticon, Falls of Rauros, Wolves in the Throne Room, Obsequiae, Infer Bruo)  were pretty productive in that time span.

Well, the 6-year gap has been most worth the wait as A Distant Fire, released on another perfect fit label, Germany’s Eisenwald, (also home to several great atmospheric folk/black metal bands) is wonderous, near-perfect album of organic, earthy, rustic atmospheric, Pacific Northwest black metal. I’m not sure there is another album cover you’ll see in 2021 that so succinctly matches the music contained within.

Those bright greens, red, fall flecks, and ominous, distant smoke greys are perfect to summarise the album’s foresty, long jaunts and atmospheres that mix gentle swells of misty, Cascadian grandeur with brittle, melodic, but warm black metal that delivers some supine, tremolo-picked, 6/8 riffs that are some of the best of the band’s 4 album career. Notably, riffs in “Stonebreaker” “Drawn Astray” (the riff at 7:50 ish….my god) or rousing last-minute of “Forlorn Peaks” where the ‘gentle’ blasts pitter-patter like a heavy rain rather than an icy storm. Of course, those riffs are often mired in woodsy, ambient builds, and acoustic/folk segments, making all the more worthwhile when they do hit. The epic 16-minute closing title track is an all-encompassing, monumental endnote with a wonderful build, mid song break and peak that climaxes with yet another killer melodic riff to die for.

Bassist/cellist (the cello is still a bit underused here in my opinion) Stephanie Knittle and guitarist Jace Bruton in particular deliver striking performances with folky clean vocals here and there (“Drawn Astray”, “A Distant Fire”) mixing in with the emotive harsh rasps. The production is spot-on; warm and full of autumnal tones and hues, but still has enough black metal bite to still be a bit threatening, like a distant storm.

This and fellow Oregonians Vela Pulsar‘s 2020 EP, Memoirs of Unbecoming have been the best releases in this style I’ve heard recently, and is easily as good as WITTR’s Primordial Arcana and Panopticon‘s .​.​.​and Again into the Light. A Distant Fire is literally, the perfect album to go on a hike in the autumn woods as the leaves changes and the air has the fresh, clean chill to it. Breath-taking.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Erik T
December 17th, 2021

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