Another great release for this year comes from VÖLNIIR in the UK. This band first appeared in 2017 with an EP titled The Enigma, and now they’ve released their first full-length album, All Hope Abandon. Its arrival happened to coincide with the recent blizzard in my area, which is fitting because All Hope Abandon itself is a relentless storm of icy riffs and dark melodies that leaves a desolate scene in its wake. There is no shortage of complex and interesting compositions on this album, and it shows the endless creative potential in Black Metal.
A MAYHEM vibe is easily discerned from the guitar sound as “The Adamantine Gates” open and unloose a chaotic rush of second wave driven riffs. VÖLNIIR expands on this with their own calculated use of Thrash elements, dark arpeggiations, and cold tremolo melodies. The harsh vocals operate on the lower end of the spectrum and function as a unique compliment to this sound. There are many transitions throughout each song, and sometimes they go in unexpected directions that make the compositions even more interesting. This is readily apparent on songs like “The Great Oppressor,” which also slows down at one point to intensify the chilling quality of the arpeggiated notes. These arpeggiations are used to full effect across the whole album, and perhaps most especially on “Wolves Among the Dead,” with their repetition adding a hypnotic layer to the song’s main riff. The latter part of “The Bottomless Hunger” morphs into a wall of cold, melancholic riffing that develops and further compounds the album’s bleak atmosphere.
“A Sermon in Thunder” shifts to a more groove-oriented approach, but it also has more crushing and catchy moments along with a cold tremolo riff that acts as the song’s hook. Sometimes these transitions feel like the music is literally flowing out of the band, like they are just jamming away, and there’s an energy here that continuously builds as a result while the song progresses. The menacing riffs on “The Depths of Abjection” seethe with contempt, and haunting clean vocals also stand out as the guitar hook further blackens this track. Mournful clean guitars briefly introduce “Malice and Lament” before the raging cold riffs take over. The fury continues after a short interlude, and then the riffing turns melancholic and builds into another epic melody followed by a gradual dissipation of the song. “As Night Falls, Let Her Reign Begin” is the final track, and this is where many of the preceding compositional elements culminate into their own groove and flow that gives the album an epic conclusion.
Occult themes are a major focus, starting with the famous “As above so below” appearing in “The Adamantine Gates.” This song also seeks to “reveal the gates of nadir, reveal the abyss.” It then calls forth “a figure walking unscathed by the smokeless fire.” A temple “where devils are made” is also described in “A Sermon in Thunder.” Hellish visions are invoked throughout, like on “Wolves Among the Dead” with its depiction of flames rising higher, and depressive themes consistent with the album’s title appear in songs like “The Depths of Abjection,” which describes having no escape as everything closes in and falls apart. These all come together for a display of self-sacrifice with “slit my throat and pierce my heart” during a “ritual of pain and madness” on “Malice and Lament.”
The lyrics also show strength while matching the sinister tone of the music. “The Great Oppressor” talks about awakening “the fire within,” and “The Bottomless Hunger” describes the light as being a lie while doing away with all sight “for blood to paint my soul and my spirit to endure.” This same perseverance also appears with “we shall endure the woeful gyre’s turn.” Hope might be abandoned, but the will remains strong.
VÖLNIIR have easily produced one of the year’s highlights with All Hope Abandon. It is full of invigorated riffs and engaging transitions that are true to the sound of pure Black Metal. There’s something new to hear with every spin, and it’s all enveloped in a cold, bleak, and hellish atmosphere. I highly recommend All Hope Abandon to anyone who likes Black Metal and look forward to hearing more from VÖLNIIR.