Nemorous (ex-Wodensthrone) Treads New Paths On “The Crucible of Being” (Early Track Stream + Interview)
From the ashes of Wodensthrone emerges Nemorous, a new, more matured entity, forged in the near-half-decade (but really almost full-decade since Curse) since their original band's demise. Having focused on the musical and more personal, spiritual aspects of the band rather than the heathenism which drove Wodensthrone, Nemorous' take on atmospheric black metal is both nostalgic for a time since past, but also forward-gazing in favor of treating this as a new entity.
"When Wodensthrone originally split up, the rest of us knew that we wanted to keep making music together in some form or another," says drummer Ian Finley in a lengthy interview with the band which can be read below. "Unfortunately it just took a long time for us to actually make it a reality due to work, distance and family (along with other musical projects) getting in the way."
On their debut, Nemorous is sharp and fierce, but still introspective and treads lightly and with a reverence for their previous incarnation. "[Revisiting the Wodensthrone sound was] nostalgic for sure!" Finley continues. "A lot of the music we currently have for Nemorous was built upon ideas which were originally written ready for the third Wodensthrone album which never came to be."
Guitarist Michael Blenkarn adds: " I think there was always a feeling of unfinished business and I don’t recall there being more than a few weeks between Wodensthrone’s dissolution and us discussing our next steps. What took much longer was to reconcile ourselves with that and to hone a sound that was a legitimate continuation of Curse (or at least those sections that the four of us had contributed) but that also didn’t feel like a retread, and also to let go of those aspects that didn’t speak for us anymore. I think the debut EP strikes the right balance between accepting that history and taking our first steps towards pastures new."
Following a familiar path seems easy, but musically it can be difficult to follow in one's own footsteps exactly, and so this isn't a carbon copy of Wodensthrone. In fact, Nemorous has developed their own sound even from the leftovers from the Wodensthrone album which never was. Though Curse revealed a new maturity for their previous incarnation, it's with Nemorous that this group of musicians reaches full actualization. The emotive, atmospheric sounds found on their debut EP (which is actually quite lengthy for an EP, but the band has made it clear) reveal these musicians to have a greater depth in the atmospheric black metal style, though each of their pedigrees (the band boasts members of An/The Axis of Perdition, Vacivus, and more) should reveal as much. Listen to an exclusive pre-release stream of "The Crucible of Being" from Nemorous' eponymous EP and read an interview with the band below.
After so many years without Wodensthrone, what made you decide to rekindle the torch as Nemorous?
Ian: When Wodensthrone originally split up, the rest of us knew that we wanted to keep making music together in some form or another. Unfortunately it just took a long time for us to actually make it a reality due to work, distance and family (along with other musical projects) getting in the way. I feel like we didn’t get a chance to explore everything that we wanted to with ‘throne, and so Nemorous was always going to emerge eventually, it just took us a while to get to a point where we could make it happen.
Mike: I think there was always a feeling of unfinished business and I don’t recall there being more than a few weeks between Wodensthrone’s dissolution and us discussing our next steps. What took much longer was to reconcile ourselves with that and to hone a sound that was a legitimate continuation of Curse (or at least those sections that the four of us had contributed) but that also didn’t feel like a retread, and also to let go of those aspects that didn’t speak for us anymore. I think the debut EP strikes the right balance between accepting that history and taking our first steps towards pastures new.
What was it like revisiting the Wodensthrone-esque sound so many years after Curse's release?
Ian: Nostalgic for sure! A lot of the music we currently have for Nemorous was built upon ideas which were originally written ready for the third Wodensthrone album which never came to be. It was really interesting revisiting ideas from back then, and reimagining/rearranging them through a slightly older and (hopefully) more mature lens. It was also really positive seeing how well the chemistry worked as soon as we got back into the rehearsal room together, even after a few years apart, and this absolutely carried over into our first (and currently only) live show to date.
Mike: In some ways it feels like coming home, particularly in renewing our rapport as musicians.
Aside from a different lineup, how do you feel Nemorous differs from its predecessor? In what ways are they the same?
Ian: I think there are some clear similarities between what we are doing now with Nemorous and what we were doing previously with ‘throne as, in a way, we are picking up where we left off to some degree. However I do feel like the change in lineup and the years apart have definitely had a significant impact on us as individuals, which has resulted in some clear differences between the two bands. I feel that Nemorous’ music is more introspective and pensive than we ever were in ‘throne, and starting a new project with a blank slate is really liberating as we don’t necessarily feel the pressure to live up to anyone’s preconceived ideas of how we should sound. This sense of freedom has allowed us to experiment a little more and to not feel constrained by the idea of genre or living up to a previous identity which no longer fits as well as it once did.
Mike: I think it’s certainly less immediate, more introverted and wistful, and so far has deviated from the primal aggression that often lay at the heart of Wodensthrone songs. An obvious profound shift for me was switching from keyboards to guitar, even though I contributed a fair number of guitar parts to Curse. The continuity is inarguable but we tried not to let that define us. Nemorous’ music is, I think, a pretty telling indicator of which sections Chris and I wrote for that album, but modulated by the consequences of having that crucial extra space to experiment. Our keyboard player Alexandra also brought a wholly different sensibility to the instrument that I hadn’t really been capable of, and expanded that aspect of the sound beyond what would have been permissible in Wodensthrone. The Rhodes piano and Hammond [organ] with rotating baffle that were used on the EP are the crowning touch on some of my favorite moments.
How does composing music which is spiritually similar to an earlier project iteration compare to when you were actually crafting the source sound in the mid-to-late 2000s/early 2010s?
Ian: One of the really fascinating parts of developing our sound was delving into some of the unused ideas which were originally written for the third ‘throne album and trying to reimagine and rearrange them into a form which we felt represented where we all were now. It all feels like a process of continual growth and development to me, as our newer compositions build on what we have done before, but with a new sense of exploration that I don’t think we could have necessarily achieved as ‘throne.
Mike: At heart, I think this style of metal is pretty timeless; as a listener it’s a touchstone that I am continuously returning to, and I find that this grows to be more the case as I get older and more troubled by questions of meaning and purpose. The themes of mortality, grief, impermanence, balance and totality are never going to run dry, though they can certainly become increasingly fraught. This style is the ideal vehicle for me to engage with those issues.
Most of you are in other bands - what makes something a Nemorous riff or progression as opposed to one which belongs to An Axis of Perdition idea or Ahamkara et al?
Ian: Thankfully it’s usually pretty obvious whether something I write is more suitable for Vacivus or Nemorous, as they have clearly different styles. I tend to write with a specific project in mind anyway, and so this is rarely an issue for me personally.
Mike: As a general rule of thumb, if a riff sounds like my guitar is vomiting or has some kind of oozing disease, it’s Axis. It has to be kept quarantined from other projects for their own good.
For me it’s really about compartmentalization. I like the different bands I’m involved in to have a defined and focused modus operandi and remit. Sometimes the difference is reflected in the lyrics rather than sound so I can accept a certain amount of sonic overlap if the content and purpose of the project has its own integrity. Or alternatively, the difference can be driven by the combination of people involved and who is writing what. I just have to be able to justify it to my own satisfaction as it is a uniquely anxious business to find the best home for riffs and songs that could fit in any number of places.
Stratification is only healthy up to a point though, the balance is to have a disciplined and coherent sound on the one hand but without getting to a point where you have a list of projects as long as your arm, with only the most negligible differences, but all demanding for their individual “careers” to be cultivated. That’s just stressful.
Does Nemorous still have the heathen ideals which defined Wodensthrone? What is your relationship with those earlier themes like now?
Ian: While we do still share a lot of ideals with ‘throne, Nemorous is not as intrinsically tied to pagan or heathen imagery as our predecessor was. This is not for any particular reason, other than we have found that by not focussing as much on the heathen imagery it allows us a greater freedom to explore subjects and ideas from a wider frame of reference. The themes we are exploring are definitely similar in nature and scope, but we don’t want to feel constrained by anything, including tying ourselves to a particular cultural worldview, when writing. I guess this is a symptom of the shift towards a more introspective tone?
Mike: Speaking for myself, I felt important that Nemorous take the opportunity to unanchor us from the trappings of any single mythos. Wodensthrone already took pains to unanchor itself from more ethnocentric forms of heathenism and constructs of nationhood to examine cross-cultural commonalities instead. The opportunity was there to take things a step further with Nemorous and focus on existential questions in an open and speculative way without feeling obliged to subscribe to any particular worldview. The process from Curse to this has been a turn towards the absolute fundaments and psychological building blocks of humanity and how we narrate our place in a world that is at once nurturing, abused and hostile. I think in some ways there’s a similar process at play as there is in something like Wardruna, which presents a non-traditional, ahistorical transfiguration of heathen tropes for the postmodern world. We’ve arrived at a point of information saturation these days when the temporality of popular music and culture has collapsed, and every potential cultural microcosm co-exists simultaneously. For me that lends itself to very much to observing the points of convergence between wildly different cosmologies and societies and looking for new insights rather than clinging on to any fanciful version of the past. Or, you know, a walk in the forest is nice too.
What is your relationship with black metal like now that you all have been composing it under various banners for such a lengthy period of time?
Ian: While I have always deeply loved black metal as a genre, and it is unquestionably the genre that inspired us to start making music as a band, these days I don’t find myself so attached to the label as I once did. Perhaps it is because I can recognise that elements of our sound don’t follow the blueprint for trve black metal, or perhaps it is because I enjoy the freedom that comes with a more relaxed view of genre restrictions, but these days I am finding it harder to identify with a particular genre label which adequately encapsulates the music we are making. I have no problem with people calling our music black metal, but likewise I have no objections if someone doesn’t feel that our music lives up to their idea of what black metal is. It’s all about the trees man…
Mike: I guess genre was already a vexed question in Wodensthrone, and we’ve only muddied those waters further with Nemorous. I think there’s a perennial problem here, in that there’s never been an adequate nomenclature for the vast number of bands following in the footsteps of Enslaved (or for that matter Agalloch or the whole Cascadian thing), wherein black metal has basically been a placeholder descriptor waiting on a genre that never materialised. It’s not a hat that fits and I’m tired of arguing with Satanists about the fact that we don’t appear to be getting a different label anytime soon. My own personal interpretation of black metal is a very permissive one based on its engagement with notions of the Unheimlich but that doesn’t feel quite right for Nemorous either, as I think our music is a bit more grounded in interrogating our place in the world and what it means to be human. Heathen metal or pagan metal aren’t really any better once you dispense with any particular cosmology and its attendant cultural baggage. While it started as a joke on a forum, the notion of Pine-Scented Metal is still actually the most suitable description as far as I’m concerned. As the evolution of music becomes ever more fragmented and historically dislocated I imagine more bands simply abandoning this question as simply no longer relevant. I apologize if this has all been a rather circuitous verbal shrug!
Bindrune Recordings was Wodensthrone's original home label, having released Loss in 2009. Bindrune refers to this release as your "coming home." Does it feel that way to you?
Ian: Yeah, definitely. Bindrune have always been hugely supportive of us and it was a no brainer to go back to them with Nemorous. Experience has taught me that it is much better to work with a label that really cares about the music they release, and the artists they sign, and Bindrune certainly fits the description. Marty and Austin have both been good friends of ours for years and Bindrune feels like the natural place for us to call home.
Mike: Yes, it couldn’t be better. Those guys are true friends, not just business acquaintances, and that can never be overvalued.
The full-length ends with a surprising cover of In Gowan Ring's "The Wind That Cracks The Leaves," which is a personal favorite song of mine. What was translating this folk song into your style like? How do you think B'eirth would react to it?
Ian: It’s one of my favorite songs too, which is why I was so vocal in pushing for us to do this cover version. I was raised around a lot of folk music, and I really wanted to include the cover as a little nod to my dad, who was a folk musician. He was hugely supportive of me when I was getting into music but tragically died before he could hear the music I ended up producing. I like to think that the song in some way represents the way he passed his love of music on to me. Mike’s arrangement of the track is just beautiful, and the added strings provided by our good friends Katie and Jon from A Forest of Stars really helped to bring it to life.
Mike: It’s been a favorite song of mine since I first heard it on Prophecy Productions’ Looking For Europe compilation. I’d been mulling the possibility of a metal cover in some configuration or other for at least a dozen years but finally the time seemed to be right. The challenge was to find an arrangement that conveyed the sense of movement and building intensity you would expect from a metal track while staying faithful to the essence of the song. I hope we did that. I did send it to B’eirth but I have no idea whether he liked it!
Nemorous releases this Spring on Bindrune Recordings