Wiegedood is a band that has been putting out evisceratingly raw black metal since 2015, four albums worth, each more compelling than the last. Although the band has generally been consistent in sound, one thing that has changed dramatically since the first release is the production quality. The band has previously had a washed-out, somewhat ambient/psychedelic element to their mixing that, although has not been lost altogether, has been toned down dramatically. It actually seems to be a common thing these days, bands with murky production coming out with something crisper and more defined (I’m looking at you Hooded Menace), but I do not necessarily see it as a bad thing. I will admit though I am more partial to murkier production than the crisp and clean style.
So now I have gotten some basic production notes out the way, let’s dive into the latest release of this Flemish-based black metal act, somewhat long-windedly titled, There’s Always Blood At The End Of The Road. Now it’s possible that might be one of my last criticisms of the album at all because this album is one of the best I have heard in a long time. Although in many ways it draws on tropes and treads tracks that many black metal bands have carved before, at the same time it manages to add a unique touch to each song and section to give it a unique quality.
One interesting element of the album is how it somehow feels more aggressive and raw than ever before. Why that is so interesting is when I first listened to this band I was awestruck by how devastatingly belligerent it was. To say this album is even more so feels somehow impossible, but that’s just how it sounds. I think perhaps the fact that the music is more present and less washed-out might add to this sense. There’s Always Blood is the heaviest the band has yet released, and yet it is also the most melodically entrancing. Not only that but the album features so many weird and interesting sounds, from throat singing, to frantic religious chanting, detuned acoustic instruments to rich folk sounds and the somewhat comical use of a sample from Django Reinhardt’s “Nuages”. All this slammed within sizzling blast beats, shredded tremolo picking and guttural, ungodly screaming.
Well I hope I have whet your appetite as my mouth is watering just describing Wiegedood’s music. Let’s dive into some tracks. The first track “FN SCAR 16” hits like a tank, its blast beats assaulting your ear drums at blistering tempos while unsettling, chromatic guitar riffs give you the sense of going insane, screaming almost indistinguishable from the smashing of cymbals periodically interjecting. This continues, unrelenting, for a minute before a second guitar joins, playing the exact same part, at first, then briefly adding some harmonies. The use of distinctly unison guitar is interesting, especially the way the two guitars are mixed, one distant, the other more in your face. The word brutal gets thrown around a lot in the metal scene, but the texture and sound of this song is beyond barbaric. The repetitive nature of it adds to the frenzy. With the lyrics being impossible to distinguish, I can only make assumptions about content but with the title taken into consideration I would assume, “war”? The SCAR being a popular American gun, possibly a criticism of US military and foreign policy, but that might be too far an assumption on the title alone. The song both feels like it lasts forever while also being over before you know it. A whirlwind of emotion, mostly anger, palpable.
The second song starts much like the last, frenetically, and with a sense of urgency. The title caught my eye so after some further digging. I found the title to relate to a famous philosophical novel called “L’Étranger” or “The Stranger” by Albert Camus. The novel follows a French settler in Algeria who, after his mother’s funeral, kills an Arab man before being sentenced to death. Not having read the book myself I cannot opine on the meaning but most definitely an interesting reference for a black metal album. The ascending melodic guitar heard as the song starts has a Western classical quality to it, even neoclassical. Although this song retains the texture of the preceding one, it has far more variety. A minute and a bit in, all the instruments drop out leaving a pedaled, distorted guitar. This section has a death-doom feel to it, that is until the vocals kick back in which are full of crust, brittle, and agonous. As the vocals end, a haunting, simple guitar melody sings atop the madness. Before long the instruments drop out again, leaving drums, the guitar melody, and a terrified voice that seems to be imploring, praying. The song slows and churns to a halt leaving a brief wail of feedback and a feeling of uncertainty.
The following track, “Noblesse Oblige Richesse Oblige” starts as you would expect, with blasts and atonal melodies that came straight out of Schoenberg’s nightmares. The title on this one once again caught my attention. “Noblesse Oblige” is French for “nobility obligates”, which refers “to the unwritten obligation of people from a noble ancestry to act honorably and generously to others” (definition taken from Merriam-Webster). “Richesse Oblige” is another French book, not yet translated into English with the phrase meaning “privilege entails responsibility.” I think this one is clearly about the history of aristocracy, and the wealth and privilege afforded to those of a certain class. I assume it is also not about an age gone by but directly relating these concepts to our modern age. I truly do appreciate the seeming depth of content and philosophical nature of it, which elevates this music above just a good listen.
The album continues shredding everything in its path until track five “Now Will Always Be”. This is the first song of the record to feature clean guitars, mystical yet beautiful fingerstyle playing that starts soft, before building into distorted guitars and blasts mimicking the same part. This track is both the longest of the album clocking in at just over eight minutes and has throat singing in it, so it’s safe to say this is my pick of the litter. Something that becomes apparent once you make it this far in the album is the reliance on repetition. Don’t mistake that as a criticism, as I feel the repetition is part of what makes the album so enticing. Added to the throat singing, it gives this track a trance-like quality. The guitar harmonies in this song are incredible, as are the chord movements we hear towards the middle and end of the song. Triumphant and cathartic like the rise and fall of a great civilisation. It’s the first part of the album to truly feel emotional, and not just scary.
Track six, “Wade”, starts with what sounds like a slightly detuned acoustic guitar. The strings sound loose on the instrument, though it could also be a unidentified folk instrument. This song is basically an interlude and has an improvisatory quality, but I never skip it. It’s a great palate cleanser between what has been and what is yet to come. The song ends with a somewhat confusing sample of Django Reinhardt’s “Nuages”, as it does not seem to influence much of the writing that comes after it. If all it means is the gentleman from this band like ol’ Django then I’m happy with that.
Not to minimise the rest of the album but to write more would just be rehashing statements I have made already. If it was not abundantly clear this album is a must listen, if you have not listened to this or do not go listen to this immediately after reading this review then I hope you … feel … really… bad….
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You can grab a digital copy of There’s Always Blood At The End Of The Road over on all the regular platforms (iTunes, etc.) For some reason Century Media do not upload to Bandcamp, but here are links to music videos of “FN SCAR 16” and “Nuages“. If you want to grab some merch, then head over to the Century Media page. You can also listen to it over on Spotify.