Old Man's Wyntar by Mosaic

Release date: January 20, 2017
Label: Eisenwald

I’d not heard of Mosaic before this new album Old Man’s Wyntar on Eisenwald, but a quick review of the Bandcamp site –engraving-style print of woodcutters bearing the slogan ‘Traditions. Legends. Mysticism’?–suggests I might like what I’m about to hear. There’s a standard ambientish black metal intro as we begin in a sonic courtyard or hallway swept with wisps of icy wind. A bird squawks uneasily and a frail and decrepit priest recites something or other, while the windy swooshes hint at low ghost voices and a rumbling dungeon thump. Perhaps the ritual fails, or perhaps it succeeds, and track two, ‘Onset of Wyntar’ inevitably features a classic entrance of buzz riffing and screeching growls. But it’s not quite the everything-up-to-11 blastaway, as the tempo isn’t at maximum rage and the key somehow evokes a sort of mournful restraint: it’s actually refreshing that this is chosen for musical values other than just the biggest, most furious contrast the musicians could manage.

After this abrubtly subsides, we get the croaking incantation again, and a nice arpeggio effect while the vocals declaim in the powerful roaring style of Dark Funeral, but perhaps a bit more distant and weather-beaten. The riff follows a simple but iconic pattern, reaching up repeatedly to the same note at different points in its run. The changes in speed and noise throughout this track (which extends well beyond 10 minutes) keep things interesting, well-judged with the continuity of the riff right up until the circling crows escort the track into the mists of a brief, weird acoustic-jangle rattle chant track ‘Im Winter’.

What might be snowy footsteps open the following track… yup, checking the track title, it’s ‘Snowscape’, and sure enough we soon get a bit of howling wind to match the lonely blizzard trudge. Sure, with this album everyone wins at black metal sound effects bingo, but it’s well put together, the musicality, the dextrous management of atmospheric melodies, and the layered ambience are all skilfully and effectively employed. Creepy priest pops up again, and there’s an interesting feeling when the high sawing solo notes come in, like we’re walking a knife-edge between swirly atmospherics and full on metal, but not quite toppling over into either.

We certainly come down on the roaring storm side of things in next track ‘White Gloom’ though, which is a brilliantly epic tour de force, surging avalanches of rattling drums and juddering riffs. Just distorted enough that it all starts to smooth out, the track is simultaneously intensely energetic and icily detached, akin to Forteresse’s majestically grim panoramas. The measured pace contributes to this too, again it’s spacious and assured without the energy dropping off.

‘Black Glimmer’, the follow up, begins in slow ritual form, traveling through different realms of slow rhythm, campfire smattering percussion and glinting-ice-water-drip bells. Then, to finish the album proper, ‘Silent World Holy Awe’ has a sort of Urfaust-like grand declamatory feel at first, before a build up where the drums switching to double time well in advance of a burst into hoarse shouting. The high guitar lines aren’t quite as effortlessly soaring and screaming as they might be, but it still makes for a great finale, which suddenly, dramatically disappears into nothing.

There are two more pieces included that are listed as ‘bonus tracks’, extending an earlier EP version of the record. Entitled ‘Vom ersten Schnee’ and ‘Silver Nights’ they clock in at 6 and 22 minutes respectively- in terms of time extension, that’s a fair amount extra! Given the appearance of our old fiend the doddering-but-still-evil priest on these tracks as well, they seem to be taken from the same sessions– taken-out-but-put-back in-takes? They allow us to collect the jackpot of kvlt noises, as halfway through the first of the two there is a trademark grim cackling laugh over the stretched out haunted tones, and right at the end a bit of folksy flute-pipe. In the second, we have a massive expedition back into similar territory explored in the earlier pieces. It’s perhaps not quite as tight with the interlocking parts as other tracks here, but there’s that similar unrushed yet fierce aura about it. And finally, there’s some jangling chain sounds to complete a powerful black metal full house; it’s an album that traverses some familiar bleak winter metal soundscapes with impressive and adventurous confidence.

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