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- Wodensthrone, 'Curse'
Jumping from the tiny Bindrune Records to the only relatively less tiny Candlelight hardly seems like cause to denounce Wodensthrone, but that's black metal for you. A sizable portion of the genre's fanbase would rather see its heroes put out cassette tapes with hand-drawn covers for all eternity than sign a contract with a reputable record label.
It's always nice to be able to discount these Luddites, but once in a long while, they're right. Wodensthrone's Curse marks one of those times. The band's debut full-length, Loss, is perhaps the high point of the last decade's English nationalist black metal movement. Loss was the sound of five dudes standing atop the storm-lashed While Cliffs of Dover and screaming suggestions for their country's new hymnal. The songs were powerful largely because of how raw they were. Attachment to one's homeland seems to transcend studio wizardry, and Wodensthrone's no-budget take on the blossoming subgenre was pitch perfect.
Curse suggests that its predecessor's sonic identity was based mostly on necessity. Candlelight brought the band a budget it hadn't had access to on Bindrune, and they took advantage. The new album is stacked with crystal clear vocals and drums, synthesized rainstorm sounds and guitar parts that are one notch of sterility away from being MIDI files.
For a black metal neophyte's palate, this is an excellent Wodensthrone album, but for people who have been with the band for a while, it's a virtually unrecognizable reinvention. Even the occasional impressive passages are neutered by the production job; it's awfully difficult to picture the title serpent of "Jormungandr" thrashing about in a pristine recording studio.
Worst of all, Curse sees its creators distancing themselves from their nationalist tendencies. It's a competent if uninspiring album that could have come out anywhere in the world. Loss was strong because it was so rife with cold, prideful Englishness. Curse's only allegiance, it seems, is to safe mediocrity.