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Thrawsunblat - "Wanderer On The Continent Of Saplings" (CD)

Thrawsunblat - "Wanderer On The Continent Of Saplings" CD cover image

"Wanderer On The Continent Of Saplings" track listing:

1. Lifelore Revelation (4:12)
2. Once Fireveined (5:43)
3. We, The Torchbearers (5:21)
4. Goose River (Mourners' March) (3:33)
5. Bones in the Undertow (5:14)
6. Wanderer on the Continent of Saplings (5:20)
7. Maritime Shores (3:32)
8. View of a Million Trees (7:22)
9. Borea (Pyre of a Thousand Pine) (5:22)
10. Elegy Across the Silence (2:58)
11. Song of the Nihilist (5:58)
12. I Am the Viator (5:07)

Reviewed by on May 13, 2013

"With few hitches in the album’s flow, and enough inventive quirks in the songwriting, 'Wanderer on the Continent of Saplings' is a tasteful representation of how black metal and folk music should mingle."

Thrawsunblat was united by a tragic event, yet didn’t start out that way. The band initially began as a pet project for musician Joel Violette. He handled the vocals and all the instrumentation, except for Woods of Ypres frontman David Gold on the drums, on their first release, “Canada 2010.” Violette was also the guitarist for Gold’s band, and had a big part in making “Woods 5: Grey Skies and Electric Light” the best album of 2012 (in this writer’s opinion). After the unfortunate passing of Gold in late 2011, Violette returned to Thrawsunblat with an intense focus on black metal with folk-ish roots.

When compared to “Canada 2010,” “Wanderer on the Continent of Saplings” makes Thrawsunblat almost unrecognizable. The fury and raw aesthetics of that debut have been toned back, letting the folksy melodies become the standard bearer for the music. “Canada 2010” was no slouch, but all the songs seem to follow a similar pattern, to some extent. This album doesn’t bow down to a strict set of rules, setting its own course befitting of what Thrawsunblat delivers to us.

The track listing is utter brilliance, splitting the album up perfectly between low-key cuts and meaty, forceful tunes. The former is made up of acoustic-led jams that turn into hearty jingles worth toasting a glass to. “Maritime Shores” is a personal favorite, though “Goose River (Mourners’ March)” has a jolly, upbeat tempo going for it. The lone knock against this style of music, and really the worst track on the album, is the plodding organ instrumental “Elegy Across the Silence.” The band would have been better off cutting it in half and using it as an intro to “Song of the Nihilist.”

A bouncy piano awaits the listener as they start the album, transforming “Lifelore Revelation” into a hard-to-forget opener. This track also does a fine job of introducing the two other key players in the band, drummer Rae Amitay and bassist Brendan Hayter. Both musicians were gearing up to join Woods of Ypres on tour before Gold’s death, so it almost seems appropriate to have both of them supporting Violette. Amitay isn’t as aggressive on the drums as Gold was, but she puts in a commendable performance. Hayter doesn’t stand out as much as he should, especially after hearing the lead he pulls off on “Borea (Pyre of a Thousand Pine).”

Even with the added help, Violette still handles all the guitar and keyboard work, plus most of the vocals (Amitay provides effective back-up vocals on “Once Fireveined” and “Borea (Pyre of a Thousand Pine”). His raspy yells are as strong as they were on “Canada 2010,” and the increase in melodic vocals prove beneficial to the album. One of the best parts of “Woods 5” was when he cut loose on the guitar with the solos, and he doesn’t fail in that aspect on “Wanderer on the Continent of Saplings.” Highlights from his quick fingers can be found on “Bones in the Undertow” and the title track.

Though Thrawsunblat has embraced their melodic side, the nastiness of their earlier material sneaks in. Though not one track completely holds onto the black metal, “Once Fireveined” has a punishing section of tremolo-picked intensity. “View of a Million Trees” tries to ease into its immense blasting with an unassuming introduction. The band shows finesse in toying with different moods and paces, switching enough times in each song to make them tempting and majestic.

“Wanderer on the Continent of Saplings” is far away from what was conceived on “Canada 2010,” and Thrawsunblat comes off better for it. Violette could have packed it in without Gold’s involvement, but he moved forward and put together a sound that fits the band well. With few hitches in the album’s flow, and enough inventive quirks in the songwriting, “Wanderer on the Continent of Saplings” is a tasteful representation of how black metal and folk music should mingle.

Highs: Fine balance between the aggressive and melodic side of the band, folksy elements bring a fresh take to the music, songs have plenty of twists to them

Lows: Instrumental "Elegy Across the Silence" is an unfortunate miss

Bottom line: Thrawsunblat puts in a great performance on the excellent “Wanderer on the Continent of Saplings.”

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)