Let me set the scene. It’s 20 below here in the Sleeping Village, but I’m safely hiding from the frigid environs, cloistered in the lofty confines of my Ivory Tower. The lamps are burning. The quill is sharp. It's a comfortable existence, but the parchment stares blankly. This will not do.
To fully submerse oneself in the dismal strains of Gather, All Ye Hellions--the recent demo from Vredensdal, Northern Wisconsin's representative for the New Wave of USBM--one requires an equally dismal atmosphere. It is with this mindset that I head outdoors into the cold and the bitter wind, seeking the physical manifestation of Vredensdal's frostbitten sound. Flesh stings as the naturalistic ambiance and somber chanting of "Ved Midnatt..." sets in, followed by distortion, forthright tremolo, and the comforting swells of (surprisingly hefty) underlying riffage. And then the vocals fall in place, and it all becomes apparent: Gather, All Ye Hellions isn't the product of your run-of-the-mill black metal wannabe. Nor is it a half-baked call to arms. Vredensdal means business.
While the general hoarfrost'd ambiance is obviously influenced by your favorite Norwegian black metallers, the willingness of the guitar throughout to weave in the occasional doom-inspired riff or lick seems subtly akin to Rebel Wizard. A distinctly gloomy and melodic current is evident throughout the entire package, with the doomy undertones showing an ugly mug most willingly on "Die By The Sword." If forced to choose, this is my favorite here--although that honor is fiercely contested by the title track.
Even to the chilblained ear, the vocals are highly decipherable. As a highly personal project that--in the artist's words--reflects "the struggle of human existence and how life itself is a burden," these lyrics leave a significant mark, and their delivery is the true star of this demo's show. Vrednesdal's voice is, simply put, fantastic. From a contemplative standpoint, it remains a prime blend of harsh naturalism, and the steadfast, world-weary confidence of someone who has seen their fair share of woes. As a result, the only real critique I have of this demo is that the vocals could stand to be louder in the mix. They deserve to be heard loud and clear.
Gather, All Ye Hellions feels significant, greater than the sum of its short runtime. It feels like the beginnings of something larger, and, given the current (justified) air of confidence Vrednesdal brings to the table, I'm quite excited to see where this is headed. If you find yourself out in the cold--or perhaps, whilst in the midst of comfort, have found the need for a little darkness--Gather, All Ye Hellions comes highly recommended.
A certain groggy-eyed, highfalutin' peasantry