Album Title: Monumental Heresy
Label: Debemur Morti Records
Date Of Release: 13 April 2018
I wasn’t necessarily expecting to like ‘Monumental Heresy’, given the folk metal tag that they seem to have acquired over the years. However, having given the Norwegian band a relatively wide berth over their 26-year career having not been overly excited by what I’d heard in the past, I caught a new track by mistake on the internet. I was surprisingly positive about what I heard, leading me to investigate the sextet in earnest for the first time.
It was a good move too.
Firstly, what I realised to my significant embarrassment, was that dismissing Wallachia as a folk metal band was lazy and incorrect on my part. Yes, there is a folk element to ‘Monumental Heresy’, only the fourth full-length album of Wallachia’s lengthy career, but it doesn’t take many spins to realise that there is much more to their output than just that. In fact, I’d say that the folk element is just one of the myriad different influences that colour the Wallachia sound.
As far as I’m concerned, the foundation of the music on ‘Monumental Heresy’ is very much a blend of melodic black metal and lush, atmospheric splendour, with a smattering of Gothic, power and Viking metal thrown into the mix. As a reference point, I’m certainly reminded of the likes of Ancient Rites – remember them?!
Let’s use the opening song, ‘Heathen Shores’ as a living example of what I’m talking about. The keyboard-heavy intro, is classic folk metal, with a cinematic and grandiose sheen, the kind of thing that heralds the arrival of something dramatic. In this case, it’s a melodic riff that belts along at a lovely tempo. The rhythm section lays down a strong backbone, which then suddenly explodes into 90s black metal territory, with tinkling keys bathing the raw guitars and even more frenetic and fast-paced drums.
Lars Stavdal’s vocals finally join the party, bringing with them a rasping, higher-pitched delivery alongside accents in a much deeper timbre. It is this point where Ancient Rites and very early Dimmu Borgir spring unbidden into my mind. The folk/Viking vibe returns via the introduction of choir vocals before we’re back into black metal territory. And then, in the final minute or so, Wallachia deliver a gloriously melodic crescendo that concludes the nine-minute monster in suitably epic fashion. I’m surprised and delighted by this song, a song that gets better the more I listen and the more I discover. I’d not refer to it as progressive, but I do like the way in which the track rarely sits still, moving from section to section with relative ease.
If you’re not a fan of longer songs, worry not because ‘Monumental Heresy’ provides a good mix of longer, more epic numbers and shorter bursts. Of the eight individual compositions, half sit at around the four-minute mark, whilst the first two and last two tracks extend beyond seven minutes in length.
The other string to the Wallachia bow, as demonstrated here on ‘Monumental Heresy’ is the variety of the material throughout, as well as the clever use of music that is both dark and upbeat, if I can use that description. It means that Wallachia packs a punch whilst, at the same time, remaining accessible and inviting to the listener. This also, somewhat perversely, could be seen to be the weakness of the band too. I have taken ages to write this review and part of the reason for this is that I have struggled to put my finger on exactly what Wallachia are trying to achieve with ‘Monumental Heresy’; as great as the music can be on the record, it is almost too diverse and therefore lacks complete cohesion and direction. It’s a small point, but worth making, I feel.
But enough of that, let’s get back to the positives.
‘So We Walk Alone’ is an elegant song that combines the ferocity and icy coldness of black metal with some majestic orchestration that makes it a joy to listen to. The whispered clean vocals are a nice touch as is the slower, stomping mid-end section where the bass of Stefan Traunmüller makes its mark. By contrast, ‘The Prophets of Our Time’ delivers some wonderful melodies atop a waltz-like rhythm. It is very folky, but in a wistful, vaguely mournful guise.
‘Silenced No Longer’ is immediately more abrasive and confrontational with Cradle of Filth Gothic overtones. Temper that with its quiet melodic section, where some strings make their first solemn entrance, and it’s a compelling composition to say the least. It’s worth mentioning at this juncture that ‘Monumental Heresy’ features the talents of cellist Dr Caroline Oblasser and viola player Anna Oklejewicz, both of whom inject the album with further texture and atmosphere to great effect.
I also really enjoy ‘The Parallel Fate of Dreams’, their aria song. It’s slower-placed, highly melodic, with female vocals making an appearance to add yet another dimension. If anything, there’s an early Tristania vibe to it, which I naturally enjoy.
In fact, if truth be told, there isn’t a single song that I don’t like or find something positive to mention – and that’s the most impressive thing about Wallachia’s latest effort. It has surprised me and I have derived much enjoyment from listening to it over the past few weeks. As such, ‘Monumental Heresy’ comes with an unexpectedly high recommendation from me. Enjoy!
The Score Of Much Metal: 8.5
If you’ve enjoyed this review, you can check out my others from 2018 and from previous years right here:
Skeletal Remains – Devouring Mortality
MØL – Jord
Aesthesys – Achromata
Kamelot – The Shadow Theory
Barren Earth – A Complex of Cages
Memoriam – The Silent Vigil
Kino – Radio Voltaire
Borealis – The Offering
W.E.T. – Earthrage
Auri – Auri
Purest of Pain – Solipsis
Susperia – The Lyricist
Structural Disorder – …And The Cage Crumbles In the Final Scene
Necrophobic – Mark of the Necrogram
Divine Realm – Nordicity
Oceans of Slumber – The Banished Heart
Poem – Unique
Gleb Kolyadin – Gleb Kolyadin
Apathy Noir – Black Soil
Deathwhite – For A Black Tomorrow
Conjurer – Mire
Jukub Zytecki – Feather Bed/Ladder Head
Lione/Conti – Lione/Conti
Usurpress – Interregnum
Kælling – Lacuna
Vinide – Reveal
Armored Dawn – Barbarians In Black
Long Distance Calling – Boundless
In Vain – Currents
Harakiri For The Sky – Arson
Orphaned Land – Unsung Prophets And Dead Messiahs
Tribulation – Down Below
Machine Head – Catharsis
Bjorn Riis – Coming Home EP
Twilight’s Embrace – Penance EP
Bloodshot Dawn – Reanimation
Rise of Avernus – Eigengrau
Arch Echo – Arch Echo
Asenblut – Legenden
Bleeding Gods – Dodekathlon
Watain – Trident Wolf Eclipse