Louisville, Kentucky’s Seidr is the full-band doom project of Austin Lunn, mastermind and sole member of anarcho/atmospheric black metal outfit Panopticon, and For Winter Fire is the band’s first full-length. It is also fucking awesome, and if two word album reviews were considered sufficiently “critical,” then we could just leave it at that. Alas, journalistic integrity beckons.
Seidr incorporates the delicate tremolos and emotional chord swells of post-rock luminaries like Mogwai or Explosions in the Sky into an otherwise caustic, stretched-out doom template. The post-rock trope almost universally comes across as one-dimensional, due in large part to the fact that even though the dynamics swing from quiet to LOUD, the LOUD parts are only ever distorted recitations of the very same quiet parts. Not so with Seidr – the band’s blending of these two styles is unique because while they do go all gorgeous post-rock trilling during quiet parts, when they amp up into massive riffs and dual-throated howling, they’re making an entirely different kind of noise. That noise, for what it’s worth, is much more like Neurosis than Isis, which is a lesson that probably ninety percent of the other acts tepidly testing out these post-rock/metal/fuckin’-whatever waters could stand taking to heart.
At times, Seidr also evokes black metal, though more through an underlying mood or oblique suggestion than through actual musical gesture. The Norse-derived themes of some of the lyrics certainly help, but there’s also a vibe very reminiscent of some of Blood of the Black Owl’s dark-forested musings. (The campfire banjo and acoustic guitar strumming of “In the Ashes” goes a long way here.) One of Seidr’s strengths, though, is that the band seems to draw from whatever tradition will best communicate its vision at any given point. Thus, “On the Shoulders of the Gods” starts off with several minutes of wonderfully deep drone/doom rumbling like early Boris, but then brings in some almost melodeath twin-guitar noodling toward the end for a very nice, unexpected touch. While some moments, like the quiet section near the end of “Sweltering,” are almost astonishingly lovely, at other times the band stomps and bruises with the best of them, as on album closer “Stream Keeper,” which pulls its best deadly serious face and apes a bit of the cavernous funeral plod of Evoken.
Nevertheless, far more important than whatever feeble genre boxes Seidr can be heaved into is the sheer amount of bloody-minded passion the band can generate. For all the crescendoing and crashing and wild emoting that goes on, most styles of music that drink from the sinusoidal post-rock well end up far too polished for their own good, and thus feel sterile and lifeless. For Winter Fire, on the other hand, shows off its ragged and unfinished edges like battle scars, which greatly benefits the album. The drum production is a little thin and echoey, the guitars and bass are not always balanced in the mix, and the multiple vocalists pull and claw at each other’s diction. In this case, though, these imperfections sound more passionate than amateurish, almost like the songs are too full of ideas and powerful movement to be too concerned with streamlining and polishing the rough corners off to dull, rounded bends. The slightly off-tune clean vocals on “A Gaze at the Stars” aren’t even enough to perturb; this is high concept doom with a DIY spirit.
At 73 minutes, For Winter Fire is not all that easily digestible, but for an over-long album, it feels significantly less over-long than most other albums of similar duration. More importantly, even in its excess (and perhaps especially in its excess) it reveals an achingly human spirit. These are not big and loud noises made to disguise small and timid people. For Winter Fire is the pure and tactile sound of human fingers on guitar strings, tired hands pounding out necessary rhythms, cracked and aching vocal cords letting fly the sounds that wither and choke if they stay on the inside. Music this slow and intentionally abject doesn’t typically evoke the full meaning of the word vital, but make no mistake, this is music of life. For life.