Three years, perhaps more. That’s how long it’s been since my copy of W.A.I.L. Vol. II arrived from a far away place—a place I had never been but had always wanted to go. There’s something about receiving a personalized letter accompanied by a cassette and twenty-or-so page booklet detailing the philosophy behind the music that, well, makes one just fall in love at first sight. There’s something even more special knowing said piece of music came from a band that never quite seemed to care just how many hands held its first release, only that said album fell into the right ones.
In 2009, well under 500 LP copies of the independently released W.A.I.L. Vol. I were pressed, followed by a CD version two years later by Ahdistuksen Aihio Productions, a well-known powerhouse for promoting incredibly unique yet blistering underground projects from the Finnish underground scene. In 2013, W.A.I.L. was finally set to release its second full-length under the Ahdistuksen banner, but Vol. II never came…
How does one write about an album that hasn’t even found an official release? One does not. One lets it sink in. One does not attempt to write the suffering the music makes one feel away. One waits, until the timing is right.
Well, that’s not entirely true, because I’m still typing words. But the emotion with which I normally say them has been swept away and sucked into the void left by the hindrance that is keeping a bad-boy like this locked up for five years or so. Perhaps they died with the now defunct Ahdistuksen Aihio, who didn’t even end up releasing the album at hand, which is a shame. The flip side to that is being able to say, without hyperbole or any sense of self-doubt, that this album is still one of the greatest artistic expressions of any kind that I’ve come across in a very long time. So let’s try this again. Once more with feeling.
Wisdom Through Agony Into Illumination And Lunacy Vol. II condenses the over-arching theme of the band’s purpose into a simply stated yet unfathomably deep concept: The dualistic nature of humans and the universe. This concept goes quite deep down the rabbit hole as the listener contemplates the exquisite lyrics and liner notes, but remains easy enough to comprehend so as to never seem overly pretentious or above the average drunkard kicking back to listen to a black/death/doom metal record.
In short, dualities need to exist, always. We have fallen so that we might be, and we are so that we might have joy. Or, perhaps, we have risen so that we might be, and we are that we might jump off a building one day. That’s the thing about worshiping the yin and the yang, isn’t it? Well, if twin jesters of chance were to approach this album, it would just depend on dumb luck whether the man would push you off the ledge or the woman would pull you back up to safety. It’s all up to you.
We, as a staff, often discuss which sub-genre of heavy metal has the most potency, and it is usually either death or doom metal that wins out. But whoooo boy, when you start crossing the streams, you better know what the fuck you’re doing, Egon Spengler. Still, for the few bands that do—and by that I mean blend dark, heavy-as-an-anvil doom with soul-slicing death or black, and blend them well—there’s nothing that stretches the boundaries of extreme music in a better direction. Interestingly enough, an old staff favorite that perfectly blends the cavernous cacophony of black metal with melodic, sorrowful doom is none other than The Ruins of Beverast’s Rain upon the Impure, an album that focuses just as heavily on the topic of duality, particularly in the lyrics to the song “Soil of the Incestuous.” Oddly, the comparisons between the two bands stop somewhat immediately after the style comparisons and subject matter, as W.A.I.L. Vol. II gives us much more than lyrics to compare the dualistic nature of… things. There are personal anecdotes, stories, illustrations, and, of course, pictures of Finnish people drinking to go along with this two-song monstrosity. (Did I mention the album is just two songs?)
The first journey is the darker and more negative of the two, entitled “Through Will to Exaltation Whence Descent into a Bottomless Black Abyss.” The nearly 26-minute track focuses on segments named after specific nouns in its own title, and ranges from slow, singular guitar notes that are dragged down an open field like a dead dog on a fraying leash to a brutal display of old school death metal guitar work, but with a much slower rhythm. One of the lyricists of the album claims that emptiness isn’t a part of negativity, but all personal philosophies aside, this song leaves the listener feeling plenty of both. It ends with a fairly lengthened instrumental segment fittingly entitled “Abyss.”
The second journey, “Reawakening through Anguish into Gestalt of Absolute,” is much more optimistic, but not immediately. Instead, the song begins very slowly, with acoustic notes that again are reminiscent of a tribal march, which is all part of the “Reawakening” segment. “Anguish,” however, is the biggest return to Vol. I form the band makes in the entirety of this hour-long album, and the riffs that begin to carve their way into the song are some of the best that have been written in the death/doom style. From here, the structure of the song just continues to widen and widen, as more influences both inside and outside of metal take root and allow this 36-minute track to absolutely flourish.
For the sake of brevity, but also because leaving a lot of the biggest musical surprises should be left for the listener to discover at their own leisure, a number of stylistic elements, both in lyrical content and within the music, have not been mentioned in these words. In fact, I have zero time left, as I have prolonged my slumber for so long that I literally need to board a plane to Finland right this very moment. After all these years, I’m taking my letter written by W.A.I.L.’s “I.A.” and reflecting on the passage of time, all of which has been spent with the meaning of W.A.I.L. Vol. II never far from the forefront of my mind.
Oh, if we could but know whether life has meaning, or if we perhaps just make it so. I suppose the true answer lies in Wisdom, Lunacy, or somewhere in between…