Defying – Wadera (These Hands Melt)

Wednesday, 13th March 2024
Rating: 9 / 10

Always with an ear to the ground for the unusual, my musical explorations over the years have led down all kinds of wacky rabbit holes. Within those many discoveries, we’ve become more drawn to music with a specific and intended angle. Whether that be inventive genre mashing, themes, or even an odd sound profile that leaps out, the feeling of finding music that’s new and exciting is special. While in the midst of one of these listening sessions, the progressive black metal ensemble of Defying was exactly what was being seeked. That gorgeous cover artwork stuck instantly – which is an engraving made by bassist Paweł Siemaszko – being a classical yet infinitely intriguing piece (Note to self: acquire the shirt when it releases). Diving deeper into their music, it ends up being the picture perfect visual window into what they’ve created sonically with what is their second album, Wadera.

Conceptually based on a novella of the same title by Polish author Jerzy Gierałtowski, and the subsequent Polish horror film based on that same story titled The Wolf, Wadera takes the subject matter with deft care. According to the band, they approached the creation and recording of the album to “achieve a 19th century atmosphere.” They also, again straight from the band, “utilized more than a hundred-year-old instruments, such as zither or hunting horn.” There are even a few Edgar Allen Poe excerpts present. Ambition is high, no doubt.

With all of that background information in mind, it’s evident that Defying were going for an aged, wholly unique period specific space for their maze of black metal endeavors. The question, of course, is whether Wadera stands as aspirational as the concept. We’d have to answer with an unequivocal yes. True enough, the album is digested best as a whole in its just over one hour run time, telling a connecting story as intended. Within are moments of reserved tension such as the instrumental “…miast cichac szemraja…” and the bombastic yet hauntingly measured “The Fugue.” Defying keeps one guessing while not allowing their grip to loosen, ultimately resulting in a riveting listening experience.

“The Acquaintance Shade” stands out as a hypnotically rhythmic piece that merges blackened doom passages with post-rock/metal progressions, in turn weaving a complex pattern of sounds and directions. Specifically, the stirring clean vocalized portion is one of the most intoxicating moments in an album with many. This track is a journey in and of itself, but of course having place within the whole, whose conclusion represents the midpoint of Wadera. The second half thankfully is as riveting as the first; “The Lurking Spectres” hauntingly shines most in it’s serene yet ghastly bridge of spooky lounge-esque tunefulness, accented by what sounds like ominously stomping footsteps in dirt, followed by a molten blast of pensive black metal bliss. These are but a few examples of an album loaded with memorable moments, but we think you get the idea of how exhilarating this experience is.

Let Wadera swiftly take you to a different time and place, dragging the hapless listener along for every drastic turn and clinical exploration of the various extremes that black metal can transport to. Arduously pieced together, with an execution to match, Defying finely demonstrates the possibilities that exist within their ambiguous aura. Wadera is a masterclass in creativity and vision, to which we’re infinitely glad to have had the pleasure of taking in. Next, to hopefully see the movie that inspired this grandiose affair.

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