The case of Rob Darken is a symptomatic one. He is undeniably the most important (and enduring!) metal musician from Poland and Eastern Europe in history. And yet, when black metal or folk is concerned, even on his own soil he is overlooked in favor of others, like Behemoth or Percival Schuttenbach respectively, solely on basis of some external attributes of their music. It seems that for some time now Darken is trying to gain at least a bit of the recognition he deserves: the exposure in Nergal’s biography, playing live with both Graveland and Lord Wind, and now the changes in the very formula of Lord Wind on The Forest Is My Kingdom.
The other issue touched in the new release is that the previous music of Lord Wind probably couldn’t ever be acknowledged by those who consider folk in a more academic or ethnographic terms. While some folk musicians are well versed in historic sources and can play old music by the book, Darken, clearly one of the men against time, practically reinvented ancient and medieval spirit on his own into a style which is probably mostly made up, but managed to perfectly capture what was essential, and left out what was merely temporal in the music of our ancestors.
On The Forest Is My Kingdom this substance is eventually diminished, despite of increased instrumental prowess, stylistic veracity and collective songwriting, as each of them came with a price. By pursuing more authentic, verifiable style, it partially moved away from the idealized, universal Indo-European music into rustic, yet rather particular East Slavic one which, quite frankly, already may sound exotic even for a Polish listener.
The most obvious new addition by far is the inclusion of female vocals which, unsurprisingly, assumed the main role in most of the songs in which they are present. Instead of being just vocalises performed by an actual singers, often they are primarily focused around the lyrics, and in such instances they are a detriment; a trivializing element which converts Lord Wind’s monumental pieces into a mere songs, and imposes composing with the backdrop in mind. Also, in the context of this particular music, its potential and supposed goals they simply fail to connect, and one must ask what was their purpose, besides perhaps making it more accessible for a casual listener.
On a more positive note, this opening of a new era of Lord Wind is marked by greater instrumental flexibility and a subtlety in execution. The music is fresh, dynamic and abundant in tempo changes. Unexpected additions and finishing touches in Darken’s phrasing are much welcomed and provide interesting prospects for developement in the potential Graveland albums. Due to the input of other musicians, the compositions are rich and the polyphony is livelier than ever before. However, regardless of value of their individual contributions and performances, this also appears as a step back due to thier very presence, as the whole would benefit more from being a focused vision rather than a less condensed framework with stretches of lesser significance provided so as everyone can have something to do.
Making all those efforts to elevate Lord Wind to the industry standards of Wardruna and the likes is understandable and perhaps simply needed at this point in career. Professional and well adjusted for live shows, those popular acts are perceived as paragons of this type of music, but it’s worth to remember that in the most important aspects, even with much humbler means Darken was still far more accurate than any of them thanks to his genuine access to the sphere of cultural intangibles. The „real” instruments and the ability to perform before the audience are nice features, but they weren’t necessary for Lord Wind’s previous releases (nor for the majority of 90s black metal, for that matter) to evoke something truly unique in our day and age.
Similarily to the last release by Summoning, to which Graveland was compared throughout the years due to its consistency and longevity, Forest Is My Kingdom is a somewhat unremarkable album made by a brilliant musician who is once again trying to develop, one step at a time, particular aspects of his art. It is still a worthy listen and there are some fine moments, especially at the beginning, but as the album proceed they are gradually dragged down due to the demands of an adopted format. For now, Darken’s more underground and personal works still remain his best and this album may yet prove to be merely a transitional one. In searching for more appropriate ways of expression, he has moved away from the previous golden mean, and while this new approach undoubtedly have its merits, it must be refined and applied in a better manner to be an actual improvement. Darken will figure it out.
15 thoughts on “Lord Wind – The Forest Is My Kingdom”
I do think RD will get it more harmoniously. I agree with your assessment and evaluation of the vocals and music; some aspects are lost in the music even while the vocals are in themselves well performed. I am not exactly certain what it is; do the vocals need to be more haunting and subtle or just less prominent or more narrative in style… or something else? But the quality of this work when one breaks it down into aspects is very, very high. Somehow it isn’t as strong as the sum of its parts.
Don’t get me wrong, it is nice, well performed and the developement in some regards is amazing. But there are some compromises. It is simply shallower and even for what it is, the content noticeably starts to weaken from about halfway through.
As for the vocals, it depends on which direction we prefer. Some things are apparently irreconcilable.
This should be thrown away entirely, not “refined”.
And no, Darken will hardly figure anything out.
This “material” has nothing to do with ethnic East Slavic music. It’s closer to Melnitsa or some other ersatz pseudo-Slavic pseudo-medieval postmodern puke.
My guess is that the sole reason for this new Lord Wind’s turn is that the musical “genius” of Darken’s new Russian wife must be proven somehow. I’m afraid nothing good can grow out of this, because this is a sex/marriage-driven project.
Well, it’s hard to disagree, it is not historically correct Slavic folk by any means, but to me it is clearly an attempt to sound like it, to borrow from it instead of being just fantasy/soundtrack. And East Slavic music is the closes approximation that comes to mind.
From this album it seems they never heard any ethnic music, be it Polish, Russian or any other.
Send them this:
I hear you, but please note that I deliberately avoided labelling Darken’s music as ethnic, precisely because of the weight of the term.
OLOL! They chose to make a cover of “Oj, moroz, moroz”, a pseudo-folk song written under the USSR, sung by old Soviet gopniks while drinking.
If that horrendous album cover is anything to go by…
Theres a clear lack of D&D jingles and autism.
“While some folk musicians are well versed in historic sources and can play old music by the book, Darken, clearly one of the men against time, practically reinvented ancient and medieval spirit on his own into a style which is probably mostly made up, but managed to perfectly capture what was essential, and left out what was merely temporal in the music of our ancestors.
On The Forest Is My Kingdom this substance is eventually diminished, despite of increased instrumental prowess, stylistic veracity and collective songwriting, as each of them came with a price.”
^ This is a very insightful summary of what was great about the older material – and similar could be said of Graveland. Like the best peasant food recipes, Darken had a rare instinct to create wonderful things from a few simple ingredients.
The simplistic style on this new Lord Wind release isn’t encouraging with regard to what else may be to come from Darken. I’m convinced, reluctantly, that his creative well has now pretty much run dry – and that goes for Graveland too.
Lord Wind and Graveland releases since 2000 have their moments of greatness – maybe a couple of tracks per release at most – but the albums become wearying to listen to from beginning to end. They’ve become too formulaic. On post-2000 Graveland, there’s too much drumming acrobatics and repetitive use of the same rhythm patterns and changes. Both bands make excessive use of very similar choral synth melodies and sounds. The talent now seems to be more in the playing and producing rather than in the ideas and composing – the opposite of Darken’s classic 90s releases.
There’s much to be thankful for though. Very few artists have released so much excellent music. And if I were to sift through all the Lord Wind and Graveland material from the last 20 years, I’d imagine there’s a good couple of hours of distinctive and thoroughly enjoyable music that could be compiled into a very solid ‘best of’ album. I really should do that!
1050 Years of Pagan Cult was a very solid best of album, albeit without any Lord Wind material. I’d be interested to hear your compilation
Yeah, I quite enjoyed the “1050 Years of Pagan Cult” album, as a new take on old works, but I still listen to the originals far more often.
I will make that comp some time soon. Email me at: LordKrumb@gmail.com and I’ll send you a copy when it’s done.
nah, 2000-2006 was Darken’s golden age, fuck anyone who disagrees
this new album blows though
this was meant to be a reply to LordKrumb
You’ve failed to convince me. Perhaps you could go a step further and attempt to explain why you think that period of Darken’s music was superior to his earlier works?
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