Thursday, 4 February 2010

Ealdulf - Hrimcealde Sæ (2009) 92/100.

Even within the opening few minutes, I was completely blown away by the sense of adventure in Ealdulf’s spectacular debut, entitled ‘Hrimcealde Sæ’. Having been in hot pursuit of this record for several months, I was more so relieved than anything to finally be able to say that this was mine and that no one could take it away from me. As I tightly gripped onto this bands obscure works, I was reminded of the feeling I first felt when I blasted Self-Inflicted Violence’s debut a few weeks prior to this monumental moment. I was flabbergasted by the adventurous spirit of one of Britain’s youngest talents. There was an experimental factor at the forefront of the music which lingered in the air like the sweet smelling fragrance of a beautiful, exotic woman from a far away land. The record cemented my belief that these musicians are the next big thing, alongside fellow British and Irish acts such as Altar of Plagues and Fen. Though Self-Inflicted Violence were cautious to be seen with their influences hanging out for all to see, there was a definite feeling that they could possibly be influenced by the same sorts of genres as those two aforementioned bands.

Although Ealdulf hold some resemblances to Self-Inflicted Violence, ‘Hrimcealde Sæ’ establishes Ealdulf as a surprisingly more complex and intricate package than was first expected. The opening song, entitled ‘Hrusan Heolstre Biwrah (In The Darkness Of The Earth)’, although essentially an instrumental song, easily draws the listener away from the initial belief that they know what to expect from this multi-talented group. To say this debut is far more raw than that of Self-Inflicted Violence would be a gross understatement. In some ways, this generously layered masterpiece is akin to olden day black metal records of a more visceral nature but, in other ways, this record hints at an underbelly which is far more complex and difficult to understand. Starting with the introductory song, the idea that this record would established a raw, hard-hitting edge is as far from the mind as humanly possible. The song opens with a melodic, thick bass line akin to the treasured days of post-punk bands like Joy Division, who utilised the bass instrument as well as anyone ever has, even to this day, despite the fact that they have been defunct for almost twenty years.

It is possible Ealdulf’s bassist has taken some inspiration from this never ending fountain of inspiration that is Joy Division, but I’m unsure. The bass is an integral feature of this record, something I was never expecting. Self-Inflicted Violence, the musicians other genial conception, does use a fair amount of fore fronted bass, but not like Ealdulf and not with the same sort of resonance. Remarkably, Ealdulf’s use of bass instantly makes this record far more complex than one would imagine. The bass isn’t low lying, as the opening song likes to point out. It remains in our faces like an intimidating boxer, jabbing at us for effect and constantly trying to grind us down to an emotional wreck. Even after the upbeat introduction has finished, the bass continues to pummel away at the listener, beating them down to the ground, and with the help of the progressively tinted guitars, swipes away at our emotions leaving us sullen and withdrawn. This is an exhausting debut full of joyous moments. The bass plays a huge part in my thinking when I say this, but it doesn’t have the final say in things as the drums, guitars and even the vocals, which are definitely reminiscent of those on Self-Inflicted Violence’s debut, all play a significant role in manufacturing a monumental ending.

Moving onto ‘Sweotule Asecgan (Of My Innermost Thoughts)’ and ‘Mod Geondhweorfeð (The Memory Of Kinsmen)’, Ealdulf continue the theme of a leading bass, which rumbles beneath the surface of the distortion like a volcano whose laid dormant for many years coming to life. Other aspects do contribute as well, as I’ve said. There seems to be a naturist feel to the music with the use of cleaner guitars and perhaps some programming, which litters the audacious soundscapes with the image of Pagan rituals, or some form of worship of one’s own heritage. I’d be interested to read the lyrics, which are not available and are not summed up by a few words within the lyrical themes. I would imagine, like fellow British band Winterfylleth or perhaps even Wodensthrone, that Ealdulf revolve around ideas like ancient history and heritage. There is a spiritual, almost archaic feel to the music as shown through the use of occasional repetition (though tremolo based riffs are used throughout - they simply just alter the way the riff sounds from one moment to the next) and what could be keyboards, or simply just clean guitar effects.

Regardless of what is creating the under laying sound, it is both beautiful and mesmerising, which works tremendously well against the repetitious elements. From time to time Ealdulf do slip into something more traditional, as shown on songs like ‘Wyrde Wiðstondan (Withstand Fate)’ which showcases some useful solos and deft song writing abilities - an element which constantly causes surprises along the way, given how it switches from one ploy to another, each with tremendous ability. There is an endless list of qualities to this record, from the tight instrumentation, to the use of bass, to the vibes I get from the soundscapes - spiritual, astral and cosmically aligned. The only negative regarding this record would be that the songs do tend to lessen in quality towards the end, though not by much. The production stands firm, despite the fact that this is an independent release, again hinting at the capabilities of the band to produce something spectacular against all odds. A band that are definitely being added to the list of potential future leaders and another fine example of Britain’s hidden talent.

No comments:

Post a Comment