Windfaerer – Alma (Avantgarde)

Tuesday, 11th September 2018
Rating: 8/10

Making one obvious left-turn on the black/folk metal sound, New Jersey’s Windfaerer previously make inroads with 2015’s Tenebrosum, a sterling display of breathy extreme metal illuminated by spans of melody and violin interplay. There’s a reason for it — mainman Michael Gonçalves takes significant cues from his own roots, namely, the Iberian Peninsula. Such a locale instantly suggests we’re dealing with exotic sounds, something that rings quite true through the band’s third full-length and first for Avantgarde, Alma.

The push-pull and regular interplay between tidal black metal riffing and the electric violin work of Ben Karas pushes Alma forth. Even if the band did operate without the services of Karas (who is invaluable), Windfaerer don’t translate like your average American band promenading as a folk band. A lot of that has to do with the band’s riff constructs, where instead of the heave of harmonic and disharmonic chords, Gonçalves and gang work in biting tremolo runs and crunchy outlets, like on “Becoming,” one of the album’s early stormers. However, triumphant melodies run and crest through cuts such as “Skybound,” “Journey” and “Under the Sign of Sol,” where Windfaerer take what are often rudimental folk element stops in black metal and turn them into cascading, heightened pieces of work, where the builds and climaxes are something to behold.

Through it all, the combination of Karas’s racing, heart-pounding electric violin work and the regular swell of pristine black metal make Alma a true show across the American extreme metal terrain. Rare is the merging of folk elements and black metal done with such a degree of pure atmosphere, devotion and sophistication.