By Hera Vidal. Netherbird has been around since 2004, and, after going through a brief break-up period, the band returns with The Grander Voyage, their fourth album. If you are a long-time listener of the band, then you might notice that, on this album, the band has moved into a symphonic approach in regards to black metal, but they have also added touches of atmospheric quality to their music.By Hera Vidal.
|Cover artwork: J. M. W. Turner|
Netherbird has been around since 2004, and, after going through a brief break-up period, the band returns with The Grander Voyage, their fourth album. If you are a long-time listener of the band, then you might notice that, on this album, the band has moved into a symphonic approach in regards to black metal, but they have also added touches of atmospheric quality to their music.
So, The Grander Voyage, your fourth full-length album will be released this year in October. Could you explain us the title of this record?
I try to keep both titles and lyrics open for every listener to find their own meaning in. But to me “The Grander Voyage” is about the perspective I have gotten on life as I have become older. I was a very frustrated and sometimes angry person when I was younger, but with time I have come to see things a bit different and I have found more of a calm inside myself. So this album is my way to describe that growth, or evolution. But I think every listener who reads my lyrics can find their own meaning in them and I hope “The Grander Voyage” will mean something else to them.
The Grander Voyage begins with “Pale Flames on the Horizon”, which immediately sets the mood for the first half of the album, and it has sounds effects that will show at various points of the album to help accentuate that mood. The song also has a sinister undertone that gets briefly touched upon before leading straight to “Hinterlands”. This song picks up where “Pale Flames” left and it’s heavily melodic—it’s fast, filled with urgency, and on the verge of committing violence. However, before things can escalate, there is a brief atmospheric interlude of acoustic guitar, as if to calm the aggression heard earlier on the song, before going back to that heavy melody that borders on elaborate, symphonic themes. There is a noticeable balancing act between the vocals and the music when it comes to the more emotional aspects of the song: if the more demanding the vocals get, the more intricate the music becomes. This becomes prominent in “Windwards”, where a choral-like backing becomes the centerpiece for the beginning of the song before launching into the same melodic theme that was seen in “Hinterlands”. However, “Windwards” weaves past musical themes with the choral backing, making it sound refreshed. It also begins to mellow towards the end of the song, which shows a shift between the aggression and desperation heard earlier to a sadder, heavier state of being. Whether that leads to a state of reflection or to a state of sadness depends on the latter part of the album.
“Pillars of the Sky” completes the shift into what seems to be a state of reflection by beginning—and staying!—on the acoustic side of things, especially with that guitar playing; it has the main melody, but it’s backed by a guitar tone and vocals that get progressively unsettling. It builds on anticipation and, when the black metal elements drop, it elevates the song to a higher plane of musicianship. It combines distorted black metal harmonies and the main acoustic melody, which begin to slow down before only the acoustic guitar is left, returning to the main melody we heard in the beginning of the song. However, everything once again shifts with “The Silvan Shrine”, where the black metal comes back full force, yet the guitar here seems to be on the groovier side of things. This song focuses more on the musicianship, as the vocals are not a focal point. In fact, they sound like they are fighting for attention, but the guitar and the backing music ultimately wins out. Halfway through the song, the atmosphere of the song completely changes and it sounds so dark—the vocals and the guitar get heavier and harsher, leaving behind the melodic groove. Add the background keyboard and rain, and it sounds extremely sinister. Eventually, the groove sounds return, making the listener realize that the song was much as about catharsis as it was about reflecting on the emotions the music went through. At the end of the album, the listener can hear the sounds of the calming sea, the heavy guitar, and the echoing sounds of the surf as it the voyage comes to an end.
All in all, The Grander Voyage is an album that brings vitality to black metal by not settling on a particular style. While the band definitely had various musical directions and ideas going on at the same time, they definitely were able to tie them at the end, ending the album on a hopeful note. This album contains an excellent blend of symphonic and classic black metal elements that bring atmosphere to the table, while the acoustic tonalities and background noise are a nice touch amidst the chaos. The Grander Voyage is a powerful album, and will definitely leave the listener in a better state than prior to listening to it.