Wold
Stratification

I stumbled upon Wold after Screech Owl was released last year. Out of curiosity, I opted to give them a listen. Judging by Profound Lore’s other artists, I expected something avant-garde and, well, profound. After all, this label houses some high quality acts, including Nadja, Alcest, Portal and Asunder. What came out of my speakers confused me, and completely turned me off. An impenetrable fog of distorted static, which had absolutely no resemblance to something called “music”. I wondered if anyone with a level head would actually listen to this. After the release of “Stratification”, I discovered that they actually do have somewhat of a following. This, and an extremely insightful interview I stumbled upon (which can be found on Pitchfork’s website, and is highly recommended reading) led me to give them another shot.

The imagery Wold seeks to conjure with Stratification is something of a hellish snowstorm. Not a snowstorm you’d envision while listening to Agalloch, but something infinitely harsher. This takes you beneath the bowels of hell, to the underbelly of the universe itself, a barren wasteland of swirling shards of ice. There is no emotion in this, not even despair. Lying naked as the storm rips you apart, even the hope for death fades into nothingness. This album opens with the title track (an instrumental), which wastes no time in conveying its true nature. It contains no drums or vocals, just guitar, distorted into abstraction. It resembles a harsh and howling wind more than anything else. But then, to my dismay, the second track (“Sleigh Ride”) actually has something of a “riff” to it. I use the word “riff” lightly, as I don’t think anyone would want to headbang to this. It sounds almost as if you’re in the grained static between distant radio stations. Except one is playing Khanate and the other is playing Satanic Warmaster. And that’s more or less how the rest of the album works.

I do feel there is more to this beneath the surface, however. For instance, at the end of “White Winter Wanderer”, the eternal static fades out, revealing something more tangible beneath it (if only for a few short seconds). Upon repeated listens, I found that the looping riff revealed at the end was being played through the entire song. Too bad it’s barely audible. Tracks “Frost Crystal Symmetry”, “Nine Paths” and “Nine Creeks” all sounded pretty much the same to me, at first. But again, repeated listens revealed a bit more to it. In the opening seconds of these tracks, the gritty layers of chaos come in one by one, showing you each and then overlapping to create an even harsher whole. Deceptively, it gives you a lot to listen for. The album’s second instrumental track, “Wintertime”, sounds something like a rocket ship blasting off with heavily processed sleigh bells over it. “The Frozen Field” stands out from the rest of the album, as it’s the only track containing just drums and vocals. It comes across as a nightmarish Native American ritual. The final track, “Auld Tree”, seems to be the most hellish of them all. In the opening seconds, a riff not too unlike something you’d hear from Sunn0))) exposes itself, before the chaos overcomes it in the next few seconds. It continues just as the rest of them before fading out into something that, again, sounds like heavily processed sleigh bells. I could be imagining it, as it’s easy to hear strange things amidst the insanity of this album. Maybe that’s the beauty of it.

Even for an extremely open minded music enthusiast, such as myself, it’s still easy to listen to something with closed ears. My initial reaction to Wold was unfair, albeit valid in its own right. Fortress Crookedjaw and Obey (the duo who make up Wold) must have known they’d receive reactions just like mine. To create music such as this, knowing 99.9% of the world population will shun you, is certainly an admirable effort. That being said, I will never listen to Wold again. But give them a try and you might find you reside in that special 0.1%.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Belgarath
July 22nd, 2008

Comments

  1. Commented by: Cynicgods

    This is the only band I actively dislike out of all the Profound Lore roster. I know I wouldn’t be able to stand this for two “songs”, let alone the whole record. This coming from a guy who likes suffocating drone and lo-fi black metal says a lot. Hats off to you for actually listening to it and coming up with a review.


  2. Commented by: Mr. Faust

    Really Cynicgods Wold is the only band you dislike on Profound Lore and you’re actually “a guy who likes suffocating drone and lo-fi black metal”, wow, that sure does say alot… wow. I’m going to go out and buy a copy of Stratification now.


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