There are many types of homes. You’ve got saltboxes, colonials, federals, a-frame, shingle, Victorian, foursquare, lodge, gablefront, storybook, split-level, etc. But, there’s really only one desirable way to live, and that’s definitely inside a cavernous, dank, mildew-riddled castle full of frayed velvet drapes and long, dark hallways—preferably residing deep within the woods, perched atop a mountain or hill with grand view of the valleys and streams to guard the approach. This castle is also likely cold—drafty winds whip through the corridors and you seek warmth and refuge in fire-warmed rooms guarded by large oak doors trimmed in studded iron. As the snows fall, you might light a fire on the watchtower for warmth. You’ll reach deep into your stores of red wine, fortified port and brandy to keep your bones warm against the wind as you prepare your mind and body to prey upon the yet unknowing victims who have taken up residence on the abandoned farm to your north. It’s their bones that will adorn your table as you begin the winter feast. And, of course, you’ll need a soundtrack. Thus, I present, with complete confidence, Evilfeast’s Ellegies of the Stellar Wind.
Now on its fifth LP, Evilfeast, the solo project Poland-based multi-instrumentalist Grimspirit, is pulling no punches when it comes to atmosphere and ambiance. While other releases may have been less “castley” than this one the synthesizer, overly fuzzed out guitars and quite relentless backbeat has always been omnipresent. Here, as on “Winter Descent’s Eve… I become the Journey,” the synthesizers combine with footfalls crunching through icy snow to create an immediate atmosphere of the hunt. Babbling brooks sing their ancient song across acoustic guitars offering a brief respite in the journey. Booted feet tromp across windy planes as wolves howl in the distance. It’s these touches, combined with above-average production, that makes Ellegies of the Stellar Wind an absolute black metal masterpiece.
The vast expanse of compositional styles across this album bring to the light the marked talent and confluence of influences that Grimspirit is able to not only pay homage to, but corral and make his own. Tracks like “Lunar Rites… Beholding the Towers of Barad-Dur” offer more straight-forward, blistering takes on black metal at times, while offering more Summoning-like takes on groove oriented black metal. At over twelve minutes, there’s more than ample space for Grimspirit to showcase his multi-bladed attack. He vacillates between generic harsh vocals laden with reverb and subdued choir vocals with ease, as his rhythmic abilities provide a backbone always driving the composition as a team of horses would a carriage through a snowy hillside. His guitar abilities are on full display—whether it’s a more chord-heavy rhythm section or a shrieking lead-line, they beckon the listener to give over body and soul to the fantastic voyage. None of which is to be outdone by his proficiency on the keys, which are the true anchor of the project, and which show off for the final four minutes of the aforementioned track.
Drawing upon such storied acts as Burzum and Paysage d’hiver, Evilfeast easily provides a renewed faith in the abilities, as well as the limitless bounds of black metal. While much of modern black metal is impressed with extremity and pure belligerence, Evilfeast shows remarkable restraint over the hour and seven minutes that make up Ellegies of the Stellar Wind. “Archaic Magic… A Cenotaph Below the Cursed Moon,” the most furious track on the album, is terrifically restrained as choir vocals and organs layer themselves over blast beats always holding just enough back to keep the listener engaged and enticed. As the track surges into a near full snowy whiteout, the organ is let loose, playing single notes in chaotic fashion enhancing the plot of the story being told, like a black metal Benny Hill opening.
Evilfeast provides far more than just a soundtrack to a fictitious, fantasized lifestyle. The tracks on Elegies of the Stellar Wind are phenomenal black metal perfectly composed and produced to quickly transport your mind to the happiest of evil places. Whether your fantasy life involves murdering villagers with your fangs, riding in overstuffed carriages through a snowy pass, or merely decorating the inside of your castle, Evilfeast is there for you to provide the ambiance that your life so desperately needs.
*Front cover painting by Johann Gottfried Edmund Koken (1814-1872)