Fans of depressive, atmospheric black metal have a lot to be happy about in 2009. So far we’ve seen fantastic releases from all the greats – Blut Aus Nord, Drudkh, Wolves in the Throne Room, as well as shoegaze/black metal newcomers like Fen, Altar of Plagues and Svarti Loghin. And now here comes this stunning disc from the UK’s Wodensthrone (notably featuring a former member of fellow UK pagan black metal act Winterfylleth), which is not only some of most enthralling black metal I’ve heard all year, but one of the best debut LPs I’ve heard in years.

This is true pagan black metal, alternately pensive and savage, with a core of longing that runs through their sound like ancient bone beneath earth, clay and ash. Steady drumming and warm, distorted guitars fill out the nine lengthy tracks, with Brunwulf’s frayed croak echoing overhead. And the entire experience is shadowed by tasteful, subtle synthwork, which colors each melody with lush, organic melancholy. Add in occasional clean chants, acoustic strumming, and delicate, haunting woodwinds, and it’s a flawless example of how the genre should sound. And if that’s not convincing enough, the band also recorded the album at Negura Studios in Romania, after appearing with Negura Bunget and Fen in 2007.

Loss is a massive, enveloping experience (over an hour long), patterned with light and shadow and shifting moods. Where “Leodum On Lande” is a soothing, twilight dirge, “Heiofungtid” is a rousing midday gallop – the perfect blend of Moonsorrow’s thunderous heroics and Drudkh’s autumnal panoramas. You can practically hear the hoofbeats drumming across the plains, the spatter of mud, and the ragged caw of the crows as they take flight from skeletal branches.

The middle of the album is dominated by three monstrous, perfectly titled epics. “Those That Crush the Roots of Blood” furiously condemns the forces – religious, political and historical – that wiped away England’s ancient cultural heritage. It’s followed by “Black Moss,” the blackest, strangest and most martial moment on the entire disc. And “Upon These Stones” takes a more wistful look back at the isles’ lost ages, with a striking midsection woven from strands of Middle Eastern melody and misty psychedelia. Then, after the hypnotic, instrumental pomp and folk of “Pillar of the Sun,” Loss comes to a moving, solemn close with “That Which is Now Forgotten – 597.” The last few moments of that track, with a melody that suddenly shifts from loss to hope, are simply breathtaking. If you can find the proper setting in which to get lost in the album’s vast musical landscape – a long, solitary walk outdoors is best – I highly suggest you do so.

Although Wodensthrone is relatively new to the scene (they’ve released a couple of splits prior to this), I can confidently say that Loss is a better and richer experience than some of the albums released this year by more seasoned acts. It’s better than Wolves in the Throne Room’s Black Cascade. Better than Drudkh’s Microcosmos. It doesn’t top Blut Aus Nord’s Memoria Vetusta II (not only my favorite black metal album of the year, but probably the decade), but it certainly belongs in the same elevated sphere. Look for this near the top of my year-end list – and if you’re any fan of the genre, it’ll likely be on yours as well. Simply magnificent.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jordan Itkowitz
October 6th, 2009


  1. Commented by: bast

    Looking forward to this and new The Ruins Of Beverast…

  2. Commented by: Marty/Bindrune

    Thanks Jordan for this stunning review! Greatly appreciated!!

  3. Commented by: vortex

    This sounds awesome! Thanks for the great review. When is the new Ruins of Beverast out?

  4. Commented by: Stiffy

    Amazing debut. Heard these guys years ago through myspace and was shocked to see them get so recognized

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