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Wanderer: Bypassing the Abyss
Looking at some of the future releases sitting in the inbox, I happen upon Bypassing the Abyss by the Ukranian Black Metal group, Wanderer. This isn’t actually a brand new album, but it’s one that I was definitely interested to hear considering the album is pretty hard to happen upon. Released back in 2004 through Magik Art under the title Passing the Abyss, it gained a lot of infamy for the fact that the album’s master was damaged prior to being pressed for distribution. According to the press release, it has been repaired and remastered so that it could be heard the way it was intended.

But, even in this pressing I can immediately tell there’s something wrong with the master. The opening “Intro” is pretty morbid and dismal, coming off like a low rumbling from a keyboard before a cymbal fades in to present a simple gothic symphony that gives way to more roaring. But, this is the best sounding part as far as the quality goes before shifting into “Disappeared in the Mist,” introducing a low audio quality with some really sharp guitars that almost sound like nothing but buzzing. The bass is hard to pick up on due to not really having that low a presence, or even that loud a one. You can pick up on cracks in the audio as well, especially at the start, showing that, yes, something had gone wrong at some point with this album, and it’s a terrible shame this song is of such a raw quality. The music carries a bit of an epic tone with it that I’m simply loving, and cursing out whoever it was that caused the original master to be damaged in the first place.

“Shades of Destiny” is a far more intense offering than the previous, and the keyboards do give it a slight epic sound here and there, but acting more in the form of a bridge. The speed is definitely increased, allowing the deeper vocals and their energy to come through amid the chaotic music that make it all as if they are voices within one’s head screaming at once. Unfortunately, the snares don’t often line up perfectly with the pace, falling a bit behind, but surprisingly catching up with the later increase in fury. There are some catchier passages that seem to incorporate a little melody as well, but they are greatly overshadowed the further you get into the song, coming off more like filler than anything else. The odd thing is that, while this song is great, it feels as though it has gone on forever. While I’m not ready for it to end, this hopefully is the slowest four-and-a-half minutes the album has to offer.

“Leaving the Abyss” welcomes me with a much slower performance, and a creepy overtone to the atmosphere. I’m sure if the audio had been better, the song would carry a very cold atmosphere. You can pick up on it easily with the wailing vocal approach and some of the chugging-esque riffs mixed with melodic melancholic riffs that erupt during and prior to the chorus. I’m liking it, especially with the extra energy in the wails that give it a very grim tone, but by the end I was ready to throw in the towel when the pace shifted almost out of nowhere to a much faster and venomous one similar to the previous “Shades of Destiny.”

After being tricked slightly by the end of “Leaving the Abyss,” I was quickly leary of the slower start to “Sacrifice to the Ritual Fire.” The music took a bit of a deeper turn thanks to the stronger focus on the bass due to the guitars pushing more towards melody than anything. The drumming also worked to create a creepy atmosphere that the keyboards were working with. The pace did pick up, but not in such an abrupt shift like last time. Instead, the faster material was immensely catchy and had me bobbing my head and tapping my right foot to the rhythm. It was infectious, and easily the most memorable at this point. Again, I wish the audio quality were better, especially during the brief bass solo so that it didn’t come off like some kind of alien sound effect through the washout being used on it. There is a breakdown towards the end as well that really hit me hard, causing my appendages to move at a more violent pace than previously mentioned, shocking me that what came off as the ending of the song was meerly around the four minute mark of the under six-and-a-half minute offering. This was fine, as I was greatly enjoying myself with this one, allowing the stronger melodic riffs to take me away and lash out as if the music itself were razors carving into my flesh.

Faith restored, I went into “Angel Bury” anxious, and was greeted with a rather disturbing introduction piece, thanks largely to the damaged and raw audio quality. The brutal shouting of pain from what I assume is an angel being murdered, torn apart by someone or something trudging through what sounds like a marshy land for roughly a minute-and-a-half before picking up into some unfortunately stereotypical sounding Black Metal. There was no equal brutality to match it, and I was greatly disappointed at first. It did pick up a little bit, and the shouting that shook me earlier made a return appearance, though not quite as strong. There were some catchy moments scattered about, and a cymbal-driven verse that felt a little more on the side of Avant-Garde, jumping in and out of that and a violent faster assault, back and forth to the point where I did wind up losing interest. I checked the clock: Over five more minutes to go… The pace picked back up, but I was nowhere near as invested as I was prior to that section when it happened the first time. Eventually it just started to repeat itself, and I found myself with my eyes more on the timer as it ticked down towards the end of the song’s life cycle, and an uttering of thanks past my lips when that last second did tick by.

I wasn’t too interested in “The Underworld” when the atmospheric introduction kicked in. Generic wind against falling rain with an eventual static fading in with synthesized guitars greeted me as it all began. A little more than a minute in, the song finally started. I enjoyed the keyboard driven slower atmospheric passages, which I greatly prefered over the faster ones that were far more hostile, as well as typical. It wasn’t a bad experience, and it definitely drew me back into the album enough to hear what the climax had in store, which I expected to be an introductory track.

But, what erupted from the speakers was in no way that. “In the Swamps Pool” was just a blistering assault of Black Metal hatred filled with blast beats and enthusiastic rhasps and wails. Normally this wouldn’t be a bad thing but following up the more atmospheric and mid-tempo majority and conclusion of “The Underworld,” I expected an outro similar to the earlier “Intro,” or something more on par with the previous song. I enjoyed the track for what it was, though the vocals did seem to go a bit too far at times with the agonizing approach, rarely slowing down until the two minute mark which found the music ringing out with held vile rhasps until the bitter end. Had this been an earlier entry on the release I probably would have liked it a lot more, especially since the blast beat technique wasn’t abused throughout the release like many others of the style I’ve sat through lately, and it’s a shame that this one wound up being a closing track with no suitable offering of closure to release.

One spin through, and I’m fighting internally over this album. Bypassing the Abyss by Wanderer was an engaging ride for the most part, and the damaged audio still seems to work in the band’s favor, at least in this remastered version. I would love to hear the original unaltered release, but the sharper guitars and vile, hateful atmospheres with varied speeds created many memorable tracks from this one, and a few I can live without hearing again anytime soon if at all. So far, I would suggest this to fans of Black Metal, and not just for the sake of finally hearing the release if they haven’t before…

Wanderer (band)Article based on review material provided by Dunkelheit Produktionen via Clawhammer PR.