By Kyle Harcott
Formerly kicking out snarly black’n’roll jams under the name Heathens, the recent name change to Wildernessking seems to have brought with it a fierce focus and commitment to play in a more forward-thinking style. While the basis is skull-ripping black metal at its core, The Writing of Gods… incorporates elements of rock, progressive, noise-rock and a smattering of post-rock to embellish its varied moods.
‘Rubicon’ opens, all vicious blur and tremolo-picking, no quarter given, and impressing its vehemence upon the listener with utmost urgency, until midway – when it breaks off into Enslaved territory, breaking down with soaring guitar riffs and thunderous mid-paced drums. The winter chill of ‘Discovery’ follows, ice-cold riffs relentlessly pelting, wind-chill-whipped along by frostbitten shrieks, summoning ice-breaking Norse-slave-ship rhythms in the middle breakdown, as the song hurls itself toward a storm-swept end.
Singer Keenan Oakes’ vocals are of special note throughout the album; his lacerating peal and equally-feral ravenous growl absolutely show-stopping. Meanwhile, the riffs, pythonic in size and scope, are incessant start-to-finish, coming down like meteorites fastballed by some sarcastic blackgod, shattering everything they come into contact with.
The triumphant ‘River’ is next, opening with a clarion of guitar harmony and galloping its way across clear-black stargaze, while ‘Utopia’ skirts battle-metal territory with a noise-rock bass intro, before dropping midway to a thudding doom pace. ‘Surrender’ is majestic and destroying, capitulating into a gargantuan rock solo at its outro, and the instrumental ‘Reveal’ showcases the band’s jaw-dropping musicianship. Finally, there is closer ‘Inifinity’, nine minutes of attackattackattack, absolutely brobdingnagian in riff, and hell bent for maximum volume infliction. Only -and just barely- at the song’s outro do we catch a glimpse of Wildernessking belaying their nonstop pummeling and show us a softer side, albeit a mournful one.
Ambitious and progressive, razor-raw and unrelenting, the debut from Cape Town’s WILDERNESSKING is passionate and exciting, and I’d daresay an early frontrunner in my book for one of the best of the year. Antithetic has really found something special in this band. Wildernessking appear poised for greatness, and are destined to make a name for themselves as leading the vanguard of cutting-edge black metal, and to put South Africa on the black-metal world map.