I’m trying not to get ahead of myself here but let me make a rather sweeping statement right off the bat: “The Writing Of Gods In The Sand”, the debut full-length by WILDERNESSKING (formerly known as HEATHENS), may very well represent a major sea-change in the South African Metal scene. Sure, we have some decent Melodic Death bands (RIDDARE AV KODEN), some great Brutal/Tech-Death (BILE OF MAN), a stellar DISSECTION/SACRAMENTUM clone (WARTHANE), but bands of the truly forward-thinking variety have been pretty much nonexistent. Until now, that is. See, WILDERNESSKING sounds quite unlike anything else from this neck of the woods and their style is unique enough that, given proper distribution/promotion, they could very well leave a positive mark on the broader Metal scene.
The “Post-Black Metal” tag has become so ambiguous that I very much doubt its continued analytical usefulness, but I suppose one could lump this band in with that crowd. Having said that, this act is not another ALCEST clone. Eschewing the oft fluffy JOY DIVISION worship of many of their peers, WILDERNESSKING instead opts to go for a much darker and denser sound that sits somewhere between PANOPTICON and SHROUD OF DESPONDENCY. There are moments of relative serenity scattered throughout but they are nested deep underneath the dissonant riffs and manic screams that often come at you from several different directions. An easy listen this is not – albums like this need time to properly gestate, if you will.
There are several morsels of enjoyment to be had here. “Rubicon” gets the album off to a vicious start, lunging at you right from the get-go with some forceful riffing, searing screams, and manic drumming. Strangely enough, the track actually has an uplifting vibe despite the aggression. “Discovery” is a much slower beast more in line with the depressive BM aesthetic, its grim vibe perfectly counteracting the vibrancy of the previous song. “Reveal” is only an instrumental but its a total belter, its more linear riffs effortlessly embellished by some dreamy melodies that strongly recall those found on BLUT AUS NORD’s “Dialogue With The Stars” disc. The album is rounded out by another highlight in the form of “Infinity”, a track that starts off with gentle strains that sound very similar to those found on U2’s “Winter”, believe it or not, before reverting back to the speedier tendencies of the opening track.
“The Writing Of Gods In The Sand” is a totally professional affair in all regards, from the crisp production job to the inventive ideas, and even the detailed artwork. For a South African band this album is, quite simply, huge. This is the kind of fresh, forward-thinking Metal that more of their peers need to be striving for. Respect!
(Online March 3, 2012)