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Lord Wind - Ales Stenar
Review: During the 1990s, history revealed that even if we defeated the evils of the day, the essential character of the modern era would remain. As a result, a sea change in several genres pointed toward a revival of the pre-modern order, specifically its most recent (pre-Enlightenment) form, medievalism. Part of this wave, the primary Graveland songwriter moved from black metal to ambient medieval world music, and with Ales Stenar he perfects both form and content.
The most compelling aspect of this album is that it is thoroughly consistent in quality and mood and so provides an immersive atmosphere, like venturing into an ancient cave while ritual music plays. These melodies are familiar like nursery rhymes or national songs, both simple and repetitive, but like a folk-saying poetic and revelatory of a hidden inner truth. Musical forms reaching back into the early days of Graveland appear here, as they have on other Lord Wind albums, but like an unfurling fern frond they grow to new levels of complexity and inter-relatedness.
Aesthetically this album makes better use of layering and dynamics, often playing silence for the instrument it is and allowing a single voice to carry our attention, then slowly bringing in other instruments. In addition, instruments better complement each other; instead of one instrument carrying a phrase, two or three contribute pieces of the melody and harmonize it, forming an enmeshed weave. The more organic singing and violin give a texture and emotional depth that was previously not there. The vocals do not carry lyrics, but are sonic ululations that infuse the phrasings with richness and unstated promise.
As a Lord Wind album, Ales Stenar surpasses every attempt that has gone before and finalizes this style of music, which does not fit into any of the convenient silos like neofolk, synthpop or black metal. Building on what Dead Can Dance has done, but wisely avoiding conventional vocals or song structures to make a soundtrack-like sonic experience, Lord Wind forge a new genre. It is better and more soulful than anything you will find on a movie soundtrack however, and for all of its modern instrumentation and origins, evokes the encompassing atmosphere of the spirit of ancient times.