Windfaerer - Solar | Album Review

New Jersey Folk/Black Metal outfit Windfaerer bring us a reissue of their 2012 EP Solar – a highlight from their discography of string-accompanied, atmospheric Folk-tinged Black Metal, which was out of print until now.

The song writing in this band is solid as they manage to tastefully write powerful and uplifting songs in a sub-genre which is normally anything but. What really sets this band apart though is their use of haunting Folk instruments – which are reminiscent of barbarian eras gone by and offset the ominous riffing behind. A particularly effective example of this is on the track ‘The Morning Star’ which features a passage where the rhythm section plays blast beats with violin playing over the top. Even though the violin has a fast tremolo, the chord changes are slow giving the sense of contrasting tempos, giving quite a hypnotic effect.

The band is unique in that they have a permanent violinist in their line-up - Valček - who brings sombre melodies on the low end as well as some soaring higher pitched melodies. These are so well interwoven with the other ‘classic’ Metal line-up instruments that sometimes it is hard to distinguish violin from high-pitched guitar lead.

Michael Gonçalves’ vocals are like a guttural, barbarian onslaught, especially when layered so that higher and lower screams are overlaid. They tie in perfectly with the Folk instrumentation and rollicking drums, giving the sense of galloping into battle.

As well as plenty of epic, thickly-textured sections there are some moments where the Metal element cuts away completely leaving only acoustic Folk instrumentation - building atmosphere and giving a feeling that you have travelled back a millennium or two and are surrounded by an expanse of misty hills and forests. Fluttering, hovering tremolo violin and acoustic guitar are used in some of these sections to bring a southern European flavour to this musical time travel, which is well-suited to the lyrical themes exploring the history and mythology of the Iberian Peninsula.

The bonus track is an impressive and worthy rendition of the 1993 Emperor song ‘Night of the Graveless Souls’. Windfaerer bring boosted energy and polish to the track - the addition of what sounds like low ominous droning voices in the intro is particularly effective, as well as the improved clarity and mixing of the violin parts. However, Ihsahn (of Emperor)’s demonic vocals on the original version still take the cake, and the atmosphere is a little lacking without that classic lo-fi Norwegian Black Metal production. It’s perhaps a bit of an unexpected choice for Windfaerer to cover, being darker and more sinister in tone than their own material tends to be, and it will be interesting to see whether their sound will take on a more sinister tone in albums to come, given who they seem to be taking inspiration from lately.

Overall this album is an epic yet atmospheric piece of escapism much deserving of a re-release to bring its merits to the attention of a wider audience, and to promote their well-executed cover of Emperor’s ‘Night of the Graveless Souls’.

Would recommend for fans of: Moonsorrow, Panopticon, Winterfylleth and Saor.

Score: 9/10

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