Monday, September 5, 2011

I Shalt Become - Wanderings (1998)

Wanderings is the first full-length album from the American Black Metal project known as I Shalt Become. There is a little confusion about this release, as it has been listed as originally being a cassette demo from 1996, and also attributed to S. Holliman's other project Birkenau. Later, it was said to be a demo from 1998. Either way, such details are not very important. Very hard to come by for many years, this album was finally re-released by Moribund Records in 2006 and made available to a new generation of music fanatics.

My first exposure to this band came a few years after this was released, hearing a couple songs from a friend and managing to record "The Funeral Rain" to a cassette. It was not the most impressive piece of music that I had heard, but it certainly satisfied my hunger for more Black Metal with a strong Burzum influence. I sought this out, on and off, for some time until the 2006 reissue took care of this problem. Sadly, by the time I acquired the full album, my desire for this style of music was waning.

Simply put, this is pure Burzum-worship, for the most part. The guitar tone owes a great deal to the Filosofem album, and it would appear that Herr Holliman was hoping to do his best in following up on that monumental release. The atmosphere of Wanderings is very gloomy and depressive; this is definitely not the CD that you want laying round if you are miserable and alone, with any sharp objects nearby. While not being all that original, the songwriting still succeeds in creating a dismal aura that threatens to drain the life right out of you. With the exception of a few brief moments, the album maintains a very down-tempo pace and this works well within the confines of the style. There is not an incredible amount of progression in the individual songs, though most conclude long before this becomes a problem. In fact, the simplistic approach aids the music in accomplishing in its goal of putting the listener in a suicidal trance.

The production is what one would expect, being rather grim and lo-fi, but not quite garage-quality. This is certainly easier on the ears than most of the LLN stuff, for example. The drums and vocals are buried in the mix, for the majority of the album, allowing the mournful guitar riffs to dominate the record and to become the focal point. The drums seem, obviously, programmed so it is all the better that they are kept low. At any rate, the guitar melodies should always be the primary focus anyway, so there are no complaints with this. The guitars have a cold and lifeless feeling about them, and certain melodies cut through the wall of sound to slice right into your chest. As for the vocals, this is a weakness that the album does well to minimize, since they are rarely at the forefront. The vocal performance is not all that bad, just nothing special. Only in some parts do the attempts at shrieked vocals come off as somewhat comical, killing a bit of the atmosphere.

The American Black Metal scene is not exactly known for producing quality material, but Wanderings is one of the few exceptions. It is not a classic, but it achieves its goal of creating dark and miserable Black Metal in the vein of Burzum, while adding a little something unique to it as well. The most important thing is that it succeeds in creating a sorrowful atmosphere that is perfect for a long night of misery and self-loathing.