Noctule
Wretched Abyss

Some day we’ll be able to look back at the pandemic and fully realize some of the good things that came out of it. For one – it was a fantastic reminder that, in general, people are fucking gross, and their personal hygiene is not to be trusted. Ever. Remember in the beginning of it all when we started really finding out just how many of your coworkers weren’t washing their hands after going to the bathroom? SERIOUSLY WHAT THE FUCK EVEN IS THAT?

It also has given a lot of people a real opportunity to further explore some of their passions. Personally, I’ve logged more time on the water fishing in the last year that I probably ever have in my life, allowing me to rediscover a love I’d probably begun to take for granted. For Svalbard mastermind Serena Cherry – the down time has given her an opportunity to indulge in what are apparently two of her passions: Black Metal, and Skyrim.

I want to start by telling you, dear reader, that I don’t know dick about Skyrim. I know that it’s a video game? With like, orcs and mages and fantastical things? But that is genuinely about the depth of my knowledge here. I mention this only to say that my complete n00b status with Skyrim didn’t hinder my experience with Wretched Abyss a single bit, as the general themes at play aren’t really all that different from any Tolkein or Norse-based Black metal project. I’m sure if you’re a Skyrim fanatic, there’s plenty here for you to geek-out about and enjoy this even more, but really it’s Cherry’s distinctively emotive, melodic style of guitar playing that rightfully takes center stage, and while hints of her main gig with Svalbard certainly come across the song writing, this is still a very different but equally impressive beast.

As maybe you might suspect, this isn’t an all-out TRVE KVLT assault. Instead, Noctule takes a much more melodic approach, with plenty of hints of more modern Post-Black Metal, a good dose of Windir-esque Sognametal, and even some Melodeath elements thrown in the mix – namely on the beautiful “Labyrinthian,” which sounds very much like Insomnium’s more Blackened cousin with it’s epic, soaring leads and melodies that add a sense of mighty, upbeat triumph to the song. Similarly, “Deathbell Harvest” is full of some really clever riffing, paired with those signature Cherry-esque leads that give such a unique sound to anything she touches, not to mention throwing in some of her clean vocals that sound as innocent and pure as they do utterly haunting. The more Post-leaning elements shine through on tracks like “Winterhold” and “Unrelenting Force” which at times give off very Ghost Bath or Winterfylleth-like vibes. Again, these are all elements that you’ll certainly find familiar from other bands out there, but the delivery is very much unique to Serena Cherry.

And I think that’s what my biggest takeaway is here from Wretched Abyss – that for me, it solidifies that “Serena Cherry” sound. Yes, she’s certainly done that well enough on Svalbard’s work, but with her and her alone at the wheel of Noctule, we can start to really notice her distinct musical abilities. The guitars sound familiar to what you’ve heard from her prior work, and yet she’s created something here very much different from that project. She also deserves a TON of credit for the drum programming here. This isn’t just a relentless barrage of double bass or droning blast beats – they actually cater extremely well to Cherry’s playing, sounding as organic as you could ever hope for. They don’t just avoid being a distraction – they actually enhance the songs and the listening experience, and it shows a possibly psychopathic attention to detail that I can’t help but have a ton of respect for.

Look, I’m glad that things are turning around and pray to the Gods that bands will be able to start getting back together, making new music and hitting the road as soon as possible. But if things go south again and it means Serena Cherry is gonna have more time to continue making records like this? Well, then I guess it isn’t all bad. This is an awesome album, and I hope it’s not the last we hear of this project.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Steve K
July 7th, 2021

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