Sunwølf – Beholden to Nothing and No One

So, a wipe out of a listen; a right mix of things, but really great. Beholden to Nothing and No One lives up to its title in that the record is all-enveloping, something that could completely take over if you let it.

 

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This is a mighty record it really is; one blessed with an attitude a mile high, a gargantuan sound that straddles black, thrash, ambient metal and classic psych/folk rock with some aplomb, and a very clear and invigorating focus. Clocking in at just under an hour and a half, (and presented as a double album, think of that in this day and age) Beholden to Nothing and No One can wipe you out at one sitting, but it’s worth it; tracks like Thrown Into a Nameless Time and the brilliant Totem are blessed with this sharp attitude and also boast a sort of Vedic, Gnostic headiness which informed the best Amon Düül II long players. Why I don’t know, but the first record on the album also reminds me of what Her Name is Calla get up to; openers In the Darkened River I Found the Silence Loom and The Widows Oil have a feeling of ‘Calla’s work, a stately “wither thou Ophelia” Pre Raph post-metal burn out. It’s an incredibly slow, patient start, but one that expands the listener’s headspace by the beat. Things switch up a gear from Vultures Crown onwards; we get yet another new side of Sunwølf – a stoner/black metal vibe (replete with rasped, growling, but pronounced and very clear vox) that is pretty different to the atmospheric metal work outs that populated Beyond the Sun and Midnight Moon. Things are tougher. Don’t get me wrong, the band still show off their atmospheric, reflective side and everything still sounds like some “paean to nature”, but these new tracks are a hell of a lot more direct and confident than previous. I also like the fact that a lot of tracks don’t stick about for too long over the five minute mark, apart from Heathens Rest which is a true mapping of a headscape; a patient and otherworldly tale of derring do and earth magicke, clocking in at ten minutes or so.

The second platter continues this heady trip, albeit with a much, much looser, more acid-fried attitude; the moody opener Twelve Sunne has a sprinkling of pixie dust about it, and comes on like some Cosmic Joker comedown; the sampled conversation adding to the strangeness of the track. The strange mood of the opener is carried on throughout the minimal and spooky Come Oh Spirit Dwell Amongst Us and Ithaca, a short psyched out sketch that dabbles with some Sandosz in the Rain stylings before petering out. And when Symptons of Dearth uses the same strung out, pastoral template you could start to wonder whether you were listening to a psych folk band like Voice of The Seven Thunders rather than the Sunwølf of old. Lotus Island does signal a shift, albeit an incremental one; initially sounding like some psyched out take on Mass in F Minor.  Things start to slowly smoulder, but only that; the track is too horizontal to kick off. Finally, Of Darknesse brings yet another tick to the party; a piano-led mood piece that has got more in common with the sounds coming out of the Erased Tapes label. Think of that; mental.

So, a wipe out of a listen; a right mix of things, but really great. Beholden to Nothing and No One lives up to its title in that the record is all-enveloping, something that could completely take over if you let it. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing.