Moss Metal Returns!: Sun of the Sleepless — To the Elements
It took this band 19 years to release its debut album. Proof positive that sometimes it pays to neither shit nor get off the pot.
Ever ask yourself what the “n’ shit” part of “trees n’ shit black metal” is composed of? Wonder no more, gentle reader: It is composed of moss.
“All moss?” you ask, agape with incredulity. “Surely it is not all moss…”
Well, let’s say that the “n’ shit” part is composed of 87% moss. The rest is probably lichen and crushed leaves, some dead bugs and, uh…actual shit.
Moving on. It’s been a while since I’ve been really jazzed about moss metal. I don’t sit around waiting for some new woodsy black metal album to blow my skirt up. So imagine my surprise when I found Sun of the Sleepless‘s new (technically only) full-length album To the Elements hiding under a pile of boring shit on my desk, gave it a whirl, and had my skirt blown up. So blown up was my skirt that I ran out into the hall yelling “Guys, guys, holy shit, guys!” But there was no one there. The Offices of the Toilet ov Hell were dead empty. Because I am the only one required to work from the offices; everyone else gets to do it from home.
Now, to say that To the Elements immediately blew my skirt up would be inaccurate. The first track is a misleading tapestry of gothic chants, weepy guitar leads and ethereal keys. Pretty, sure, but no faithful indication of what is to follow. Track 2, “Motions”, is 100% black metal of the atmospheric, nature-worshipping variety. The chants are replaced by abscess-throated howls, while the reverent calm is obliterated by exalting blastbeats. It’s not terribly different from the music of household moss metal names we already know and love. And yet it sounds so damn good. Perhaps mastermind Schwadorf’s use of choral keys adds a little extra pep? Or perhaps the confidence derived from shaping this beast in the shadows for nearly two decades has given him a belated-yet-audible leg up on the competition. That confidence explodes on the next track, “The Owl”. This one really sprawls out and breathes deep. Some rueful clean chanting reappears amidst the growls, and pensive acoustic guitar interludes offer a delicious counterpoint to the multifaceted aggression.
Next we arrive at “Where in My Childhood Lived a Witch”, a magnificent title for a song which falls far short of the others. I’ve got no patience for loping black metal with chugga-chug riffs. This one is like 90% chug. It sort of redeems itself near the halfway mark by breaking up the mind-numbingly stale stomping rhythm, but having to slog through all that chug-mud to reach this point depreciates the reward. Sigh.
Luckily for me, for you, for the whole of the species, the chugga-chugs were a momentary lapse. They’re gone now, never to return. Album fulcrum “Forest Crown” is a dark neofolk ditty of Kveldssangerian majesty and grace. It is the perfect length, neither too long to hold interest nor too short to have a point. It’s the perfect palette-cleanser before the grim fury that is “In the Realm of the Bark”. Here Schwadorf layers those rich, chocolaty chants of his over driving percussion for an effect that is nothing short of soaring, and nothing short of sublime. (Best song on the album? Best song on the album.)
If only to convince myself that I’m not a hack, I’ll forego breaking down the rest of the tracks. All in all, To the Elements is a good and not a bad. It’s got styyyyyyyyyle, maaaaaaaaaaaan. Given how disinterested I’ve been in Schwadorf’s other projects (Empyrium, The Vision Bleak), I’m fairly flabbergasted.
I will not name drop any other bands for comparison. What I will do is quote the press-release, which likens Sun of the Sleepless to “Emperor, early Ulver, early Katatonia, Bathory, Mayhem and Darkthrone.” That claim is as purely fucking ridiculous as it is purely fucking unnecessary, because To the Elements really stands on its own as an effortless stroke of moss metal art. And somehow manages to do so without breaking a single shred of new ground. The only logical explanation for this feat is that SCHWADORF IS THE BLACK WIZARDS!!!!!!!!
I Hereby Rate This Album One Giant Moss-Covered Tree
To the Elements comes out July 21st on Prophecy Productions.