Winglord – The Chosen One

Sometime during the past decade, a quiet revolution infiltrated alternative music from the outsider corners of the music scene.

While the hipsters were busy strumming acoustics in DIY mimickry, and mainstream music drifted more into a rap/jazz/rock fusion, an underground music grew that does not aspire to be trendy, or current; it wants to be ancient, and eternal, with a type of profundity that modern music evades like a kid dodging questions from an authority figure.

We might call the new style ambient neofolk. Equal parts industrial, soundtrack music, world music and synthpop, it takes the basic framework of modern synthpop and layers it with samples from the past, choral singing and complex instrumental work. Unlike popular music, its goal is to create an atmosphere and maintain it, instead of being quirky.

To my ear, the originating ancestors of this music are 1980s synthpop and industrial fusions like Dead Can Dance or Ministry. These songs follow their framework: a verse-chorus loop expanded by different layers, broken by interludes that form a unique song structure, and using melodies from the past to maintain an ancient and somber mood, in which a playful voice emerges.

Created in the footsteps of bands like Blood Axis and Kreuzweg Ost, who make sonic collages from samples of voices and music over synthpop beats, Winglord is upbeat and mostly dominated by the voice of its synth-piano and underlying bass keyboard. The result is more listenable than the pure collage approach, and like 1980s Ministry its rhythms and tempo changes are infectious and rewarding like pop, without the musical equivalent of high fructose corn syrup.

The Winglord style of ambient neofolk combines the infectious power of old industrial and synthpop, the ideas of black metal, the atmosphere of neofolk and the grandeur of movie soundtracks. If you a Vangelis or Poledouris soundtrack ever took your breath away, you have an idea of the kind of emotional surge that this music imparts on a regular basis.

This album represents a significant improvement over the first Winglord release, Heroica. While it was musically solid, it was unsure of itself stylistically, which caused the musicians involved to over-play certain themes and add intricacy that distracted from the intense mood that was otherwise in the process of creation. With The Chosen One, the band have resolved many of those difficulties and give us an album with no fat or fancy to weigh it down.

No review of this album would be complete without a tribute to what are undoubtedly influences, the power-pop of VNV Nation and the brooding ambient folk songs of Lord Wind. Winglord is less obviously pop than VNV Nation, and less obviously meditative than Lord Wind, which forms a happy medium for the above-average listener who wants the emotions of their music to soar above the morose aspects of life.

In fact, this is what makes Winglord such a success: it is motivational, a type of addictive beauty that makes you want to create more of it. Like the dark winding caverns that black metal bands like Summoning conjure up, Winglord use minor key melodies that they can expand over the course of each song. But these melodies return to triumphant themes, a melancholy will to survive that is also joyful. Experienced observers will note similarities to post-Summoning project Ice Ages.

Unlike soundtracks, The Chosen One can be listened to in a more active role than background music. Like its industrial and pop ancestors, it is catchy and hard to clear from your head. However, it preserves the spirit of martial industrial and neofolk, and evokes the emotions and outlook on life that defined the vision of a former time.

It is unlikely you will hear this music on mainstream radio. The hipsters will keep flogging the exceptions to the rule, and the rock ‘n’ rollers will keep endorsing hedonism, like abandoned egos afloat in an ocean and screaming invective at the sky. For those who want a sustaining and encouraging communion with beauty, the second Winglord album delivers.

27 Comments

  1. Mihai says:

    I’ve listened to Lord Wind, but never heard of these guys until now. Thanks for the recommendation. Since we are at this topic, I should also recommend the martial industrial genre in general. For those who are wondering, try to listen to some Triarii. This is one of the best in the genre and a good one to start with.

  2. Robert says:

    This album is pretty bad.

    1. Izak says:

      Thanks for all these videos.

      I had only heard of Forseti, Darkwood and Fire & Ice, all of which are great. There’s some good martial industrial here that I hadn’t heard before.

      These are some of my favorite examples of newer folk, but only some of them are “neo folk” or whatever, and some have no real affiliation with right-wing circles. Some of them were getting love from the indie magazines around 2005-2007, but nowadays it’s easier to separate the wheat from the chaff…

      In Gowan Ring: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LtyzA6wRm7k

      Changes: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W5K1U0SrRiw

      Waldteufel: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zpl4y3A-bQA

      Harvest Rain: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zZ6nhV7mLC0

      Fursaxa: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gDwLD_MaiZU

      Hala Strana: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I5-DgnXDq8M

      Lisa O Piu: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e1c0IysHW2Q

      Grim (very bizarre Japanese industrial/power electronics/folk, they did it all. They’re from the 80s but too good not to mention): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZnsxOaK29Jo

  3. josef H says:

    triarii, lord wind, uruk hai are the names i recall first in this wonderfully dark and brooding genre. thanks for the recommendation. i already love the cover artwork (: !!

  4. Avery says:

    I’m interested in how this becomes Traditional music since it draws so heavily on modern video game music.

    1. Esotericist says:

      What video games?

  5. EvilBuzzard says:

    I like the whole concept. It’s like the right has finally awakened to the fact that Lenin was right about art being a weapon. We need good fiction writing as well and movie-making. The other side of the balance has to be represented in the arts.

    1. Esotericist says:

      This really hits on something I’ve been thinking about. Every rock star is liberal, it seems. All of their songs show liberal attitudes toward life. Is it any mystery that 90% of college students are liberal? Their art-products are all liberal propaganda.

      1. crow says:

        That was a worthy observation, and a contribution worth investigation.
        It’s true: practically all entertainment represents a liberal viewpoint.

        1. Mihai says:

          If by “entertainment” we understand commercial products done for the sake of marketing, it is true.

          But not all music is “entertainment” which fits the above definition and there is plenty of underground music which is anything but liberal.

  6. crow says:

    Hmmm.
    I finally – against my better judgment – listened to the first video.
    Bearable, even vaguely interesting, but no more than that.
    The world already has far too much in the way of dirge/death/crazy/synthetic/rhythmic/mechanical noise.
    The only true music to my ears is silence, punctuated by the sounds of nature. Which has become so rare, and so hard to come by, that it should be held up as the elixir of life.
    Unless a war is called for, and then it’s pipes and drums.

  7. josef H says:

    @EvilBuzzard:

    someone needs to make a charles martel movie :D

    1. EvilBuzzard says:

      I’m a big fan. He and the Polish Army at The Gates of Vienna!

  8. Izak says:

    I’m not quite sure that I agree with the comments in the opening of this review.

    Nothing in the past decade has been terribly new, and there has been a major interest in “ancient, eternal,” and “profound” music in the underground for quite some time. I’d say that for neofolk/martial industrial/whatever, the flow from the 90s to the 00s continued fairly unaffected by much of anything. I’d also argue that “ambient neofolk” is a pretty meaningless expression, because Current 93 and Death in June have been doing something I’d call “ambient neofolk” since the 1980s, and C93 came right out of the industrial music scene. Just listen to “Island” by Current 93; it describes exactly what this review is trying to portray Winglord as being, and it’s much better, too.

    I don’t think I’ll be purchasing the Winglord album, because there’s too much “world music” in the available excerpts, and, unfortunately, world music is soulless corporate crap. “The world is changing” sounds like something I would expect to see on a TV advertisement for a commercial airline, not anything that recalls any sort of traditional music that I’ve ever heard. People are right to compare it with video game soundtracks.

    However, there is still a bunch of good music coming out in 2012 and beyond, and I do think that Arktos should continue to experiment with music releases. Until whatever comes next, I’ll have to say “nice try.”

    1. crow says:

      That may be comment-of-the-week, and if not, then quite probably comment-of-the-day :)
      Less literate souls observe, and emulate:
      It’s not about agreement, as much as considered contribution.

    2. Mihai says:

      Strange, I don;t know why, but that voice with “the world is changing” made me think of an airline commercial too.
      It is quite an unfortunate feature, but I think the overall song is decent.

      1. Izak says:

        It’s too polished, that’s why. It’s the musical equivalent of a Norman Rockwell painting. For an album whose predecessor was called “Heroica,” there’s no sense of risk or danger. It’s basically what the SWPL people think of when they negatively think of “white music” while patting themselves on the back for being “experimental” and “worldly.” If it were a jazz record, it would be Kenny G. If it were a metal record, it would be Dream Theater. It’s very commercial sounding, and in all the worst ways.

        If you want to consider a better and more traditional alternative, try this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7pqiWpxm6no

        Skip forward to 8:10 and listen to the keyboard work. This is what the real music of Europe sounds like. It’s warbled, it’s thorny, and yet it’s beautiful in ways that modern minds simply don’t understand. Listen to how the keyboard is tuned. It’s totally different. It’s microtonal, it’s more spacial. Now compare that to the clean and reverb-laden piano on the Winglord album. In the 21st century, modern whites like to think of the piano as this “beautiful” and “romantic” instrument. If only they really understood how decadent and perverse of an instrument the piano really is!

        1. Mihai says:

          Perhaps a bit off-topic, but I have to ask this:
          What music do you prefer and how do you argue its relevance from “our” point of view.
          I’m only interested in a few words.

          1. Izak says:

            Haha, good suggestion. I can be a bit verbose.

            I think that a smart and well-intentioned man of politics can argue for the relevance of just about any musical genre to his perspective, and make it work for him. The PC Left has a narrative in its collective mind, a story in which the right-wing makes up “the bad guy” and goes by a series of telltale traits. The diligent artist of the right doesn’t just allow himself to become a character in someone else’s story. He crafts his own story.

            1. Mihai says:

              So you are basically saying that from our point of view we shouldn’t allow the left to simply hijack a genre to suit its purposes, but that different genres can be used to suit our cause also. Did I understand this correctly ?

              Also, I do not want to limit this only to politics, but to higher aspirations of the personality in general.

              1. Izak says:

                Here’s some more long-windedness, if you’re up for it.

                In every type, in every style, in every variety of expression, you can say the truth. But every style has its own parameters and set of rules, and so the truth must be communicable according to those established parameters, which have come to being through both conventionality and the intrinsic meaning of the music. The truth — the “higher aspiration of the personality,” as you say — always has its own way of being expressed, but it’s done by finding the right words within a given dialect, given to the right audience. Or the right music within a given genre, given to the right audience.

                One wigger can talk to another wigger about God and lead him to a higher place, but can any of us imagine how he might do that? I wouldn’t even attempt to do it unless I knew the wigger dialect inside and out. But it can be done.

                What matters isn’t merely copying the form and saying “now we will make it right wing!” or whatever. This is an awful strategy, because it assumes that the same musical form can retained while hollowing out its lyrical and image content and replacing that with a new or different content, as though the musical aesthetics have no ramifications on the ideas within.

                Let’s look at an example of what I’m saying. There’s a big trend nowadays where hipster bands will be “black metal,” and they’ll basically drill themselves on the conventions and form of the genre, which has lyrically and image-wise always been more concerned with the right-wing than the left, and has shifted about between Laveyan Satanism, anti-humanism, and — to some extent — occult religiosity. The Man With An Agenda says “I will take all the riffs, mimic them perfectly, and instead, make the music about feminism and equality!” and lord knows he tries. But it never works, and never even makes a lasting impact on his peers, because he is refusing to acknowledge the connection between the musical form and the extra-musical content that supplements it. If he bothered to be an artist, he would learn the musical conventions well enough — and respect the ideas inherent to the genre well enough — to be able to use them in a new way, one which communicates an idea more similar to his own. But he rarely does, because it’s easier to just soullessly mimic things that we see.

                1. Mihai says:

                  This was a very good post. I’ll reflect on this and, perhaps, return with an answer.

                  1. chris says:

                    oh ya hey i just saw this comment and you have a great point, but it doesnt always hold true. otherwise white people wouldnt be allowed to use bass drums and guitar in the same band without violating this rule… It’s cause you can’t just lay down concrete rules and say this sound has to match this ideology, and so forth. its a very strange and narrow minded way of viewing the arts

      2. crow says:

        I really liked the woman’s voice.
        I’d rather listen to her than to the music.
        That’s a woman I’d have wanted to meet, in younger, single years.

  9. Sun says:

    I found the music pretty good actually. :)

    I’ll add it with my collection, like Two Steps from Hell–Epic Genre.

  10. chris says:

    This music sounds alright, but its quite cheesy and quite conventional in that it sounds exactly like the band’s at your average new age church. All you would have to do is throw insome lyrics about positive thinking and it would be identical. I was lured into listening because yoru ringing endorsement for this music andyour condemnation of ‘dull’ hipster music and rock and roll made it sound like winglord wouldn’t be the most boring and conventional music ever. I don’t usually comment on forums, but I’m compelled to tell the writer of this review that succeeding as a critic will take more brains than just bashing other types of alternative music.

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