Written by: The Administrator
Let's get one thing clear immediately. If the production quality of first wave black metal isn't your cup of tea, you're inevitably gonna have trouble with this one. If, however, you find a certain irreplaceable charm and viciousness in audio quality that mirrors the experience of listening to music through blown-out earbuds that happen to be located several rooms away...well, you are in good hands. Stick around.
Over the course of the past few years and several distinct projects, Erin Palmer has been refining a clear sound and sense of recognition in the world of antifascist black metal. Excluding a recent two-track split with Molten Dagger, her latest effort--the brisk No Grace But Through Torment--is the first EP proper under the Wolven Daughter name. It's also pointing in the direction of Erin's best work to date, which is saying something, given how much I enjoyed previous efforts. Clocking in at 8 minutes, No Grace But Through Torment delivers its point quickly without waiting around for a misguided rebuttal, all while leaning heavily into the brazen abrasivity of raw black metal.
The overall formula is established early and maintained throughout. An icy chillblain-inducing atmosphere washes over rough-hewn riffs that lodge themselves firmly after a few repetitions--no fancy shredding here, but simplicity serves and fulfills its purpose. The drums sharply crash and rattle with that classic first wave edge. Perhaps most notably, the whole affair is wrapped up in a distinctly gothic ambience--a backdrop of cobwebbed castles atop darkly forested hills is hardly far from the mind's eye. The pieces really come together most impressively, in this scribes humble opinion, on the furious "Thy Throat is an Open Grave," which features a recurring thrashy riff that serves to ramp up the intensity. That said, the slowest moments are quite engaging as well--the deliberate drums and paced delivery of the vocals on "Here Sound The Black Trumpets" adds an ominous flair and a little variety.
Of course, one can't fully discuss Wolven Daughter without addressing the overtly antifascist thematically underpinnings. Black metal as a vehicle operates on the basis of raw and often visceral expression, and musicians like Erin demonstrate that the present and future of black metal successfully utilizes the genre's aesthetic as a rallying cry against oppression and hatred. No Grace But Through Torment unleashes a heartfelt tirade that feels so much more genuine than your run-of-the-mill edgelord rhetoric, and in a world where the "raw black metal" label is practically an invitation to uncover shady connections, the deliberacy and clarity of Erin's intent is worth recognizing and celebrating. And the music itself absolutely fucks, so, like. It doesn't get better than that.
Critically, the only point I can muster is that the volume and clarity of the conclusionary sample on "Pierced By Burning Swords and Knives" pulls me out of the moment, but that's negligible. As is the case with most good EPs, I'm tempted to say that I'd greatly enjoy a full album of this stuff. However, I'm of the mind that Wolven Daughter is best consumed in this short format. It's like breaking a hole in the ice and taking a polar bear plunge--the experience is practically designed around brevity and intensity. Spending 8 minutes in the spooky blast freezer presents the optimal time frame for optimal enjoyment. In that spirit, then: I crave more Wolven Daughter, and will be spinning this current project with significant frequency 'round these parts.
Wolven Daughter - No Grace But Through Torment was released Nov. 17th, 2021, and can be found here. Buy it, if ye please!
We provide thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy...and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasant.