In October of 2009, a mysterious outfit from Kristiinankaupunki, Finland, released a vinyl-only LP of its only full length to date, Wisdom through Agony into Illumination and Lunacy. Fans of Finnish doom and black metal are in luck now that Ahdistuksen Aihio Productions has re-released this burner onto a much more obtainable medium. W.A.I.L. (pay close attention to the italics in this review) contains four tracks and an intro, which were cleverly titled “Initiation,” “Wisdom,” “Agony,” “Illumination,” and “Lunacy.” To further the intrigue of a band that seems to love initiations, initials, acronyms and abbreviations, W.A.I.L.‘s members are known only as: J.I., S.F., A.E. and P.R. Interested? Confused? Perfect, let’s begin.
To give W.A.I.L. any definitive genre description is a bit too limiting, as very different elements are displayed throughout the course of the album. One can only assume that the band has tried to personify each of its nouns by varying the music slighty with each new track. Although said variations aren’t overbearing from song to song, the fullness of the album contains everything from prodding doom to tranquilizing tribal music.
Aside from “Initiation,” each track is 10+ minutes in length, which is a clever move given the amount of room needed to work all the keys, bongos, djembes, tambourines, triangles and maracas into the metallic side of W.A.I.L.‘s instrumentation. “Wisdom” kicks things off in much more traditional fashion following the extremely down-tuned “Initiation.” A nice combination of clever guitar work and distortion on the front side of the album allow the listener take part in what seems to be a welcoming jam session. The variations in pacing ensure that monotony is nowhere to be found, which is also unique for a doom-oriented album.
“Agony” follows “Wisdom” in the same traditional manner (doesn’t it always), but the notes this time around are infinitely more mesmerizing. All Wisdom, Illumination and Lunacy aside, “Agony” may be one of the best doom tracks ever recorded (no joke), and is reason enough to give the album a try. Consequently, “Wisdom” and “Agony” were both recorded on an additional demo (released on cassette, of course), and were most likely created over a broader period of time than the final two tracks of the album.
“Illumination” is much faster paced and incredibly technical, but far from being self-indulgent or showy. It has a much more aggressive groove, and the lead solos and riffs speed up significantly and maintain their charge. Prior to the track’s six minute mark, however, things start to get… weird. This is where W.A.I.L. requires the absolute full attention of the listener. Those who loved the more relaxed vibes of the former half of the album will either be amazed or a bit annoyed at this point, given everything that is going on. Although the tone of the guitars and the beats don’t change drastically, the density of the album becomes much more tangible and will most likely need quite a few listens in order to be well-received. The same rules apply for “Lunacy,” the longest and most diverse track of all (see instruments mentioned above).
All in all, both W.A.I.L. and W.A.I.L. are incredble finds, and ones whose brilliance may even go overlooked to those who give the album only a casual spin or two. W.A.I.L. is a bit of a frustrating beast… one that will certainly outwit the listener if they approach it in an improper manner. The most difficult thing to digest is the album’s sneaky inaccessability, to coin a new phrase. On the surface, the album feels like it’s easy to digest, and not among the most likeable of all blackened doom projects due to its frustrating oddities. If that’s the case with you (as it once was with me)*, you’ve clearly underestimated the elusiveness of this callous monster of an album.
*I had a much more pessimistic version of this review written up about four months ago, but accidentally deleted it. Looks like the W.A.I.L. monster took a hefty chunk out of my ass, as well.