W.A.I.L. - _II_
(Ahdistuksen Aihio Productions, 2015)
by: Dan Lake (7.5 out of 10)
[This review is based on an advance copy of the album that really takes the word "advance" to a whole new level. It was recorded in 2013, and I have had access to it for more than a year. Release has been held hostage by the artist in charge of the cover and liner notes. He was paid in full up front and in two years has not completed the work necessary to release the album. Let this be a warning to any musician reading these words: DIY, or be damn sure compensation follows product and not the other way 'round.]

In this age of watermarked digital promos sent to journalists in lieu of any physical product, a package in the mail is an exciting event indeed. The anticipation ticks up a couple notches when the shipping stamp denotes Finland as the country of origin. (For Maryland residents like me, the only mild thrills available are a strong Orioles season or a new run of Flying Dog ales.) The final distance between curious and total exhilaration evaporates when the packing tape gets slit and what falls out is a hand-marked clear plastic audio cassette tape and an eight-page photocopied cardstock compilation of lyrics, essays and artwork.

It's gonna be a good day, after all.

The musicians verbosely calling themselves Wisdom through Agony into Illumination and Lunacy (W.A.I.L.) are a shadowy entity, to be sure, but no stranger to Chronicles of Chaos. Their self-titled debut album scored mightily with this webzine upon making itself known early in 2011. In an attempt to describe the genreless destruction raining from that record (which was, in fact, received by digital download), I used hyperbole, silly portmanteaus and gratuitous fucking profanity. I'm not even sure how wide _W.A.I.L._'s distribution was, physically or digitally, so it's unclear how useful the review might have been for those cave-dwelling metalheads sick enough to seek out the dingiest corners of the underground that W.A.I.L. represent. If you get a chance to hear it, though, do not pass it up.

This new recording is just as dark and just as dense, possibly made more so by the format and accompanying documentation. The abstract at the front of the booklet explains the album's function as a means to both analyze and unite the positive and negative perceptions of reality, and as such delineates Side A as the negative side, called "Through Will to Exaltation Whence Descent into a Bottomless Black Abyss" -- I know, how could that be negative, right? -- and Side B as the positive side, called "Reawakening through Anguish into Gestalt of Absolute". For a writer who is usually supplied with definite track breaks and song lengths, navigating the vague separations on a cassette tape presents a challenge, though the thick manifesto assists somewhat in breaking each side into manageable pieces.

Side A opener "Exaltation" crawls forward with a moody drone before A.E.'s tortured-troll voice leads a charge into oppressively evil sounds. The pounding drum attack merges with thick rhythm guitar to provide a perfectly deranged foil for clean leads and wobbly synth accents that poke through the miasma. "Will" takes over without a pause, as does "Descent", each section of the music tying imperceptibly into its successor until the side winds down into the spare, contemplative shuffle of "Abyss".

The "Reawakening" on Side B mirrors the temple procession vibe that bled out the end of Side A, alongside gently intoned speech that acts as an insistent internal voice. "Anguish" burns with a caustic inversion of that word's accepted meaning; the ascending lead work climbs over the buzzing chord lacerations below. More than anything before it, "Anguish" reveals the real chops this band has at their disposal. "Gestalt" is a languid piano instrumental (accented with violin) whose melodies are as narrative as they are atmospheric, making for an engaging mid-album respite from all the stormy guitar and death vox that define much of the record. "Absolute" opens with a militant snare march and a spoken-word admonition, eventually descending again into W.A.I.L.'s bread and butter, the relentless doom trudge with thoughtful, expressive lead and solo guitar work carved over the top.

With their dirge-caked strains of death metal merged with doom pacing and black metal's bleak psychological horrors, W.A.I.L.'s closest sonic relative is probably Alexander von Meilenwald's Ruins of Beverast. Both bands undeniably work in the darkest, densest chambers of heaviness while eschewing the trappings that would pin them into a single genre. W.A.I.L. simply follow the metal muse wherever it leads, and the results are uniformly inspired and frighteningly well developed. Sonically, the album is an absolute win for hoarders of disgusting old school death metal poured into an esoteric doom mould. The one sore point here is replay value. In many respects, W.A.I.L. have made mood music that requires a herculean attention span and abundant allowance for long passages without memorable structure. The lyrics' psychological explorations tend to dominate the flow of the music, dictating the bloated overextension of songs beyond their natural capacity. Not a single moment of the album is in any way disappointing, but the lack of sharp focus lessens the overall impact somewhat.

W.A.I.L.'s sophomore effort is a sprawling statement of intent, and if you can find it, even on a clear, unmarked audio cassette, it's probably worth your attention.

Contact: http://www.ahdistuksenaihio.com/

(article published 1/8/2015)


ALBUMS
4/19/2011 D Lake 9 W.A.I.L. - W.A.I.L.
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