Wanderer - Bypassing the Abyss reissue, and Laster - Wijsgeer & Narreman

In 2004, Ukraine's Wanderer recorded an album called Passing the Abyss for Russian label Magik Art. Due to some highly unfortunate circumstances, including the original master of the album being damaged and the label collapsing, the album never got the distribution or attention it deserved. I remember hearing a bootleg of this back in 2006 or so, and being excited by it, but the quality of the bootleg was poor, and the damaged to the master of the recording was apparent, so it fell by the wayside.

So imagine the thrill I got when in my email I received a digital promo of the remastered version, now titled Bypassing the Abyss, to be released by Germany's Dunkelheit Produktionen. The album sounds amazing, and, finally, it sounds as it should have originally. The repair and remaster has been done brilliantly, and the album sounds fresh while still retaining the sound of black metal in the "old way." The keyboards on the record are incredible and never overbearing, creating a cold and almost claustrophobic atmosphere without punishing the ears too much. Their is a certain misanthropic brutality to the record, but again, it's never too ugly, never too brutal. The raw intensity, which at times borders on absolute chaos, is tempered just enough by the dark and eerie atmosphere to keep the record moving forward, which it does with aplomb.

Hearing this album got me to thinking about black metal and "the old way." There are a lot of black metal bands out there doing things the old way, but you know what? If I want to hear Darkthrone, I'll listen to Darkthrone, thanks. They bitch and moan about how black metal is supposed to be, but have nothing original to offer the genre, and nothing of real value to put forth with their music. I'm honestly sick and tired of hearing it. At the same time, if I have one more band write to me asking for a review of their black metal record that has equal parts Mayhem and My Bloody Valentine, I may just vomit. That's why I'm glad that bands like Wanderer were able to play black metal in the old way while offering a hearty degree of their own vision and sound. If the clones and flavor-of-the-month acts dropped off the face of the planet, we'd be left with the true trailblazers as well as bands like Wanderer, who, while not redrawing the map, played black metal with authenticity and ferocity. It's a shame they released just this one record. The new edition will be available from Dunkelheit on November 6th, so keep your eyes peeled.

Available now from Dunkelheit is an amazing EP of slower-paced black metal from The Netherlands' Laster. First made available in a cassette edition limited to 100, it has now been released on CD as well. I recommend that you get one of those versions ASAP, because this band has been generating a lot of buzz and the word is really spreading on this one. Amazing guitar tones together with remarkable vocals and terrific songwriting make this a great trip. The label calls it "a slow emotional journey, enlighted by Faustian spirit from the past... for fans of Urfaust and Austere" and this sounds about right. Highly recommended, and not something you're going to want to miss out on. To check this out, you can stream it or download it for free from the band's Bandcamp page, but you are of course encouraged to support the band by buying the cassette or CD, available here.

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