Untamed Land’s full-length debut Between the Winds is a story of what happens when you combine two niche movements within a single genre. The Akron, Ohio project’s heavy emphasis on orchestrations, trebly black metal guitar work, and ambient song builds make their Summoning influences all too blatant. But rather than fixating on the expected Lord of the Rings-inspired dungeon synth, Untamed Land instead uses textures and lyrics inspired by classic spaghetti westerns. The results fit right in with the western black metal movement that’s gotten so prominent lately, but this is one of the most unconventional variations yet.
“Sunrise Hymns” starts the album off purely on its ambient merits, illustrating that this combination will be used for more than superficial gimmickry. The three-minute piece sets the western tone appropriately and is rife with building percussion, exotic acoustic guitar and horn work, saloon piano, and choral touches. As with the works by Summoning, the orchestration is obviously synthesized but it is layered well enough to not be an issue for all but the most nitpicky. The interlude “At the Village” works in the same fashion and serves as a fine breather in the middle.
Thankfully the established atmosphere doesn’t diminish when the metal elements kick in on “In Darkness Awakened.” The orchestrations still provide most of the melodies as the guitars consist of supplementary tremolos and backbone rhythms while the vocals take an almost narrative approach to their rasps. The emphasis on building percussion can make tempos drag at times, but more extreme blasts show up on “Sundown.” There are also hints of galloping rhythms at times, but they don’t come to full fruition.
I can’t imagine Untamed Land’s debut album appealing to many listeners unfamiliar with groups like Summoning, but it achieves everything it sets out to do. The pacing may be a little too slow at times, but the instrumentation works with the atmosphere and there was clearly a lot of care put into the arrangements. Hopefully the project can carve out a more distinct identity on future outings. In the meantime, I’d totally watch a movie with this soundtrack.
“A Voice of Might”