Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Album Review: Walknut - "Graveforests and Their Shadows"

Walknut - Graveforests and Their Shadows

Artist: Walknut (Russia)
Album Title: Graveforests and Their Shadows
Label: Stellar Winter Records (Russia)
Released: 2007

The walknut, better known as the valknut, is a symbol used to signify a person being bound to Odin and his service. It has been found on ancient runestones in Scandinavia and other areas, and is used by neopagans today. It is appropriate, then, that this Northern-themed Russian pagan metal band would adopt the name for their moniker. According to their label, Stellar Winter, Walknut features members of Nitberg, Forest, and Temnozor, the former two bands belonging to the Russian black metal circle Blazebirth Hall. Little else is known about Walknut, but the band has managed to cause quite a stir in the black metal realm with their debut, Graveforests and Their Shadows.

First of all, let me say that the artwork for the CD is fantastic and completely appropriate for the music it represents. The packaging consists mostly of grainy pictures of forests, as well as a photo of the band members themselves. The lyrics, which are in English, are printed in the booklet, which is helpful, and a nice runic font is used.

The music itself is atmospheric, droning black metal inspired by bands like Burzum. The closest modern reference point I can make (considering my general ignorance of any black metal-related music that is not pagan in nature) is the band Drudkh. Both bands have long, repetitive, and atmospheric songs with melancholic, nature-based lyrics. Graveforests and Their Shadows has six tracks, but only three of them have vocals. The remaining three tracks are instrumental (one being synth-based, the other two being metal). The three tracks with vocals, though, are all around 10-12 minutes long. The vocals are distorted and ghostly, like the howling of the wind, and they are fantastic. According to the insert, they were performed and recorded in the forest. I don't know if that's true or not. The lyrics paint a gray picture of dead forests, the ghosts of warriors, and men who have forgotten their roots.

The structure of the songs is pretty minimalistic. Each of the three songs with vocals have a small number of riffs that are repeated throughout, and each song has its own great hook that is placed at the perfect moments throughout the track. This kind of music is bound to leave some listeners bored, but I found its simplicity to be refreshing and effective. The guitar tone is thick and manages to evoke the melancholy and despair of the lyrics. Although the production isn't entirely clear, it's perfect for the music. It manages to sound almost timeless. This is not lo-fi garage black metal recording, so you won't have to crank it up to hear it over the background hiss (as there isn't any).

Walknut has already managed to find a pretty wide and appreciative audience, so chances are that if you're a fan of pagan metal then you are already aware of this band by now. For fans of Drudkh, Burzum, or Hate Forest, there's really no question that Graveforests and Their Shadows is a CD that should be in your collection. Hopefully this band will continue to record and release music, because, although the ingredients of their sound are not very original, Walknut has managed to mix those ingredients into a very compelling and satisfying debut album. My #3 favorite metal album of the year, after Moonsorrow and Menhir...

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