Release : 30 November 2016
When I hear the term “side project” before I hear something new, there is always a little trepidation as to whether it is a full-fledged release or just cast offs of a primary project. Luckily, I knew that the debut album from Wolcensmen was going to be epic…it was just really a matter of how epic. How about if I said this debut is crushingly epic? If that isn’t a ringing endorsement I don’t know what is.
Formed originally in 2011, Wolcensmen is the heathen folk project of Dan Capp (guitarist from the mighty Winterfylleth) and is steeped in traditional folk and will certainly have a spot on many a top albums list this year. The original demo from 2013 had 5 tracks of which I had only heard 3 with 1 of them making it onto the debut here (“Hoofes Upon The Shymmeringe Path”) albeit with a slight name change. There are 9 tracks here totaling 50 minutes ranging from just under 3 minutes (“Withershins” and “Sunne”) to the 10 plus minutes of “’Neath A Wreath Of Firs”. If you need some possible comparable acts I would say maybe some Agalloch, The Flight Of Sleipnir and Amorphis are a few I could connect to Wolcensmen on some level, primarily acoustic material from these acts would be where I could hear it. There is no hiding behind an electric wall here, the tangibility of the music and vocals is right in front of you to be touched and that is the magic of going acoustic. Dan has built layers of subtle yet powerful instrumentation and various vocal tracks from the primary to choral and all seamlessly blend into cohesive and awe inspiring tracks. It took me quite a while to listen to this whole album as I kept repeating certain tracks and listening to all of the little things going on……percussion accents, guitar accents, piano/synth, flute and the churning cello all finding a home. The true highlight for me on this are Dan’s understated vocals…..no showing off with a 4 octave range but just a pure and natural approach with an ease and familiarity about it. There are numerous times on here that he is all alone on the tightrope….just a man and his voice and he nails it every time and creates some of the most powerful parts of this album. There are some guests on the album (Nash from Byrdi and synth purveyor Grimrik amongst others) and they all add their special touches to this amazing album. I’m trying to think of the last time I listened to an album as loudly as this one as I tried to disappear into it’s folds and shadows with each passing minute before being drawn back into reality upon it’s close. The mix and production have also gone above and beyond…. Everything is open and fresh with no insertion of extra frills…..like you can almost feel the warmth of the crackling fire burning as you sit near the hearth. Is it too early to start talking about debut album of the year? Well, we are only one week in and this has ushered in 2017 on a high note (and yes I know this came out in 2016 but I can bend the rules a tad) For those expecting Dan to have taken tracks that didn’t make it to “The Dark Hereafter” and acoustify them, well sadly this isn’t it although that would be pretty cool.
What we have here is a collection of some of the best neo-folk you will ever hear and an instant pick for what could potentially my debut of the year, even if it did come out last year. Amazing album.
1. Withershins 02:46
2. The Fyre-Bough 07:03 video
3. Sunne 02:42
4. Hoofes Upon the Shymmeringe Path 06:08
5. ‘Neath a Wreath of Firs 10:10
6. The Mon o’ Micht 03:24
7. Snowfall 04:49
8. The Bekens are Aliht 07:15
9. Yerninge 05:51