The music of Leeds group Sunwølf is dark and mysterious, but way different than you’d expect. On their new record ‘Beholden To Nothing And No One‘ they bring dark ambient, with a touch of doom. Two discs filled with haunting beauty.
A chilling sound arises, when opener ‘In The Darkened River I Found The Silence Loom‘. Cold and melancholic guitar sounds echo while a women laments. Cold arrangements of doom metal and Nordic ambient are interwoven into a tapestry that feels like a wide land of permanent ice. This is continued on ‘The Widows Oil‘. It reminds the listener a bit of Earth’s ‘The Bees Made Honey In The Lion’s Skull’, but lacking the warm gloom of that record.
‘Vultures Crown‘ is the first pure doom track, slow and creeping, the riffs are like surging lava but again, cold and minimal. The hoarse barked vocals are in the same hammering pace. That sound becomes monumental on ‘The Wake Of The Leviathan‘. The magnificent riffs make it seem like the gargantuan beast is rising up from the deeps. This is the kind of song that makes it hard to imagine that Sunwølf is merely a duo due to the sheer heaviness of the sound. This is followed by the nihilistic ‘Thrown Into A Nameless Time‘. Clean vocals, sounding as if sang with hands raised to the heavens, echo over the thin sounding guitars. When the sound intensifies these turn into roars of agony. In the end it slowly ebs away.
Another instrumental track follows with ‘Totem‘, which has a repetitive track focussing on the same pounding drum assault. It’s a bridge back to the ambient sound the band is working so well with. Gentle guitar sounds in minor bring up the title track. The eerie sound slowly becomes fuller and warmer. A sample is played from the film ‘Network‘ (1976), concerning truth telling. Then the music picks up a bit more determination. The rhythm combines and intertwines for more firmness, as the sun rays breaking out over that quiet and mysterious land. Closer of the first disc is ‘Heathens Rest’, which is an almost hypnotic, 10 minute track of ambient that reminds me a bit of the ambience Ulver made a while ago.
Onward to the second disc it is. Ambient drones set the course on ‘Twelve Sunne‘. Slowly notes ebb onward, showing vast empty soundscapes where only the chatter of remote radio broadcasts can be picked up. It’s the wasteland. “Living nor dead, and I knew nothing, looking into the heart of light, the silence“. The wasteland looks much more grim on ‘Come O Spirit, Dwell Among Us‘, with dissonant notes like the howling wind. A sickening gleam is added to the scraping and despairing noise, like that of a sickened land where only spirits dwell.
We inhale deeply when signs of life show on ‘Ithaca‘. A haven is found, but not the haven the seeker wants. It’s one with despair and brass instruments weeping gently to the moon. A bit like the band We vs Death, this speaks of loss though where is life, there may be hope. The tone is a bit lighter on ‘Symptoms Of Dearth‘, gentle guitar play with softly played trumpets. Setting up that ambient vibe the band is clearly going for on this second disc. At the end of the 5 minutes there’s a momentary surge of energy, which launches the listener into the following track.
Here we enter a monastery; bass tones are giving body to the chanting that surrounds us. ‘Lotus Island‘ keeps that repetitive chanting up for minutes, before some guitarwork pierces through. Low and gruff riffs are cascading onwards. It arises, vocals rising up from the deeps and then fades away, into ‘Of Darknesse‘. A slow song, ending this record.
Scribed by: Guido Segers