Ancient VVisdom’s music has always had a dark edge but their signature doom folk has never sounded as morbid as it does on their fifth full-length album. Mundus is the group’s most morose effort thus far, scaling back their lighthearted melodies and completely eschewing the gleefully Satanic lyrics of albums past. In their place, the band leans more on their heavier influences with themes reflecting on humanity’s flawed nature. The shift is certainly natural, even if one wonders if frontman Nathan Opposition’s recent ventures with Vessel of Light might’ve subconsciously played a hand in the proceedings.
The heavier tracks give the album a fair amount of variety and a couple of them are unlike anything that Ancient VVisdom has ever done before. The punky snarl of “I Am Everywhere” makes for what might be the band’s biggest curveball ever and “For the Glory of the Grave” is driven by a particularly gritty bassline and a few sweeping instrumental segments. Lead single “Human Extinction” is also a noteworthy highlight and another one of the band’s more Danzig-influenced numbers, starting the album off with a weighty mid-tempo groove and chiming organs.
Fortunately, the band’s acoustic side remains well represented. The lighter chords on “Severed Ways” hearken back to the style seen on past albums, but the song structures tend to go for more atmospheric ends than anything too sing-song. “Plague the Night” and “Will to Destroy” stand out for their subdued strums and gloomy baritone vocals, but “Edge of the Abyss” may be the biggest standout of the bunch. It initially seems like an odd choice for a closer as its scaled back instrumentation feels like it’s building up to something, but the ominous delivery ultimately sells it.
While Mundus doesn’t have the doomy campfire goodness that initially attracted me to Ancient VVisdom, it never feels out of place with what the band has accomplished. They remain committed to a dark aesthetic even if the attitude isn’t quite as uplifting, there’s still a commitment of melodicism even if individual songs aren’t quite as catchy, and the amped-up heaviness never leads the dynamic away from its acoustic-friendly core. I think 33 may be the best entry point for the full Ancient VVisdom experience, but I could see more aggressively minded listeners getting more out of this album. Either way, Ancient VVisdom remains a unique force in both neofolk and doom.
“Plague the Night”
“For the Glory of the Grave”
“Edge of the Abyss”