Album: Death of the Sun
Label: Moribund Records
Genre: Black/Folk/Doom Metal
Wyrd is a band that is near and dear to me, having spent many of my university years listening to their albums, Heathen, Vargtimmen 1 & 2, and The Ghost Album getting the most frequent rotation. Imagine my delight when after seven years of silence, Wyrd drops a new album without almost no warning. I was very intrigued by this new album because of the addition of several members to the band. Almost all previous Wyrd albums have been the creation of one person, Narqath, but on Death of the Sun, the band is now a six-piece! Going from one person to six people is quite a large jump, so a change in sound is impossible to avoid. But now time for the real question: how does the album hold up? As far as I’m concerned, very well!
When I first turned on this album, I was shocked. The first track, Death of the Sun, is not only much heavier than I was expecting, it was also much more raw. The guitar is constantly raging, and it sounds fuzzy, but not in the warm fuzzy way. The vocals, provided by Grim of Kalmankantaja fame (I think!), are a snarled black metal rasp that is buried quite far back into the mix. The only time this song resolves into anything that carries some melody is during the bridge, where acoustic guitars poke their head out for the briefest moment. Now, if you know Wyrd, you’ll know that while their songs have always been fairly raw, there was a warmness drenching everything. This song is the exact opposite of that; it’s heavy and it’s cold. So yes, the very first song startled me. I was not expecting anything like this from the new Wyrd album.
However, immediately following the title track is Man of Silent Waters, opening up with acoustic guitar and bringing in the familiar whispered rasp featured on so many Wyrd songs. Now this sounds familiar! Even when the guitars finally come in, the song leads to the classic Viking-inspired chorus, and it sounds almost the same as it always has. And to be perfectly honest, it is only that first track that makes me feel surprised, because the rest of Death of the Sun fits what my memory of Wyrd sounds like. I suppose I could say that things sound colder, the guitar tone is not as warm, and sometimes things take a turn for the heavier, but overall, this album could’ve been recorded during the mid-2000s when Wyrd was their most active.
Even those songs that are heavier, like the one immediately following Man of Silent Waters, find some common ground with previous albums in a way that the first song does not. Whether it is in a certain melody that the guitars follow, a certain singing technique used during the chorus, or an extra instrumentation that is included, you can still tell that the songs are being written as Wyrd songs, not some new band formed from the ashes of Wyrd. The closing track, Rust Features, features an awesomely heavy guitar riff paired with crashing drums, before the chorus breaks in and sounds exactly like something off Huldrafolk. The album jumps from place to place quite a bit, trying out many different sounds throughout the course of the run time of just over 50 minutes. I like to think that sets of songs represent different periods of Wyrd, since the band was never content to stick with the same sound for any given time. Some songs have that thoughtful melancholy present on songs like Sad Song of the Woods off Vargtimmen 1, some songs have that heavy brooding feeling like The Hounds of the Falls off Kammen, some songs even have that post-rock inspired tone like all of the songs off The Ghost Album. Of course, when it comes to an album where a band went from one member to six members, I think it makes sense for them to test out all of the different sounds that the band previous covered, just to discover where their new strengths lie and what works best for them as a larger band.
Death of the Sun, because of the way it is written, offers something for everyone, and there are those who will enjoy some tracks more than others. For me, I have always loved the slow, plodding melancholy of Wyrd, so my favourites are songs like Man of Silent Waters, Pale Departure, and Where Spirits Walk the Earth. Overall, I’m really excited that Wyrd is back at making music, and I really hope that we don’t have to wait another seven years for the next album. Death of the Sun is a worthy release in Wyrd’s hallowed discography, and the full band really nails the sound while at the same time enhancing it. If you’ve ever been a fan of Wyrd, or never even heard of them, this is a great album to pick up.