Since the whole Gorgoroth name dispute debacle, Gaahl has gone a long way to repairing his reputation. While there are still blights on his past records, as there are with many figures in Norwegian black metal, it has now reached the point where few people talk about him in the context of these anymore, and rightly so. After the mixed results of God Seed, his attempt along with King Ov Hell to effectively carry on Gorgoroth in a different guise, Gaahl has pursued musical and artistic projects that feel far more authentic and personal, culminating in Gaahls WYRD.
The project’s 2019 debut album GaastiR – Ghosts Invited was a triumph, brilliantly combining the various sounds of post-black metal with Nordic folk influences and a solid focus on Gaahl‘s intense and dynamic vocals. The songwriting and the performances were excellent too, so it was evident there was actually more to Gaahls WYRD than the namesake front-man. Guitarist Lust Kilman has been an integral part of the creative side of the band and continues to be so on The Humming Mountain, while bassist Eld and drummer Spektre once again provide high level rhythm section performances with plenty of character.
Where GaastiR – Ghosts Invited felt like a march towards establishing the band with a consistent and distinctive sound, The Humming Mountain feels like it’s revelling in eclecticism a little more. Bookending this record, we have the dramatic atmospherics of the acoustic opening track The Seed and the creeping ambience of closing track The Sleep. Both have a nod towards Gaahl’s work with Wardruna and see a fuller realisation of the softer side of the band that was only ever hinted at on GaastiR – Ghosts Invited.
introducing new ideas to the Gaahls WYRD cannon and further exploring the sounds that they had previously crafted…
On the other end of the spectrum, we have the scorching blackened thrash of middle track The Dwell, complete with wailing guitar solos, rampant riffing and ferocious drumming. While the middle sector segues into something more familiar and epic, the whole thing feels like a bundle of energy designed to counterbalance the calming strains of The Seed and The Sleep.
The title track itself definitely feels like it would have fit on GaastiR – Ghosts Invited. Conceptually it takes on an organic metaphysical theme which matches the Wolves In The Throne Room-esque guitars and the haunting synthesiser lines that entwine their way through the dense swirling layers. Awakening Remains – Before Leaving delves further into this black metal formation, with tremolo guitars brightly lathered over a dynamic combination of tight blast beasts and stomping grooves. Across most of this record, Gaahl‘s baritone singing is as much an atmospheric colouration as it is a tool for the leading melodies, but on this track, it actually comes over as an intriguing alternative to the echoing screams that usually accompany this sound.
The Humming Mountain doesn’t feel like a complete record in the same way that GaastiR – Ghosts Invited did. In a way that isn’t surprising as the record is set out as a mini-album that’s introducing new ideas to the Gaahls WYRD cannon and further exploring the sounds that they had previously crafted. In that sense, The Humming Mountain is like the short story that develops into a novel; it’s enjoyable, endearing, and full of moments that will totally engage you, but it doesn’t quite have the satisfying absorption that comes from the longer format. What it does mean, however, is that we can have very high expectations for Gaahls WYRD‘s next full-length album.
Scribed by: Will J