Redwood Hill

Ender

Written by: AP on 07/07/2020 23:17:54

Full disclosure: Redwood Hill is my favourite Danish band — at least out of the ones that still exist. But instead of making me partial, my affinity for the blackened post-metallers has rather translated into holding their music to an extremely high standard, a challenge the five musicians have thus far overcome with flying colours on “Descender”, their début in 2013, and “Collider”, its successor the year after. The dreary grandeur of the music coupled with elusive lyricism about emotional and psychological atrophy rendered these works deeply mesmerising, yet it was as though the motif still needed some kind of resolution. And thus was born the idea of a trilogy missing its final piece; one the group spent five years envisioning and moulding, until it inevitably became a double-opus with the blunt and pertinent title “Ender”.

The record is worth every minute of its runtime — but arm yourself with patience, for here is a band whose penchant remains writing music that slowly crawls beneath your skin, blackening your thoughts until your mind has found its darkest recesses and thus fallen into sync with the protagonist’s coming to terms with perpetual suffering. It should come as no surprise then, that “Ender” is an overbearing, and at times exhausting album to listen to, playing like raw and nihilistic black metal but with a glacial pace. Yet while glimmers of light shine by their absence, the songs are not unmelodic as such — the melodies conjured up by guitarists Brian Michelsen & Toby Roar Lind Rasmussen, and the decrepitating growls spat out by vocalist Marco Stæhr Hill just produce a soundscape so abysmally bleak that it instils in the listener a sense of utter claustrophobia, as though the walls were closing in on you with no escape in sight. The totality of the atmosphere that envelops “Ender” is as fascinating as it is frightening, and it helps to render the album Redwood Hill’s most cohesive work to date, one in which the nonexistence of traditional singles is compensated for by the immersiveness of the listening experience.

In that sense Redwood Hill have moved even closer to the style of Amenra, with tom-heavy percussion and sonorous bass lines rumbling beneath with a primeval mercilessness, as wall after wall of sound is sent trouncing your ears just as they had found some respite in one of the quieter passages that also exist throughout the record. This is the pattern of “Ender”’s ebb-and-flow and there is next to no variety to it; no clean singing to tame those horrifying snarls like on “Collider”, nor any notable shifts in tempo to shock you out of your nightmarish lull. Yet the droning and at times iterating style of the record never threatens its longevity, notably because it is built from moments that each stand out in their own right. Whether it is the ominously escalating tension in the opening track “Singularity”, the maelstrom of hellish shrieks and icy tremolo riffing in “Absence”, the tantalising crescendo in the end of “Polar”, the devastating misery of the conclusive piece “The Passage”, or simply the finesse with which the band utilises interludes to segue between the songs, the album delivers myriad highlights to latch onto, and while the overall dynamics are perhaps a bit too easily surmised, the constant juxtaposition of bedlam and calm never seems to lose its impact during the 68 minutes of its runtime. Call the album repetitive if you want, but it is hard to argue with the intensity of the experience at the very least.

In fact, there is plenty here to suggest that “Ender” was consciously arranged by the five musicians into a kind of endless loop so as to reflect the hopeless reality in which the protagonist finds himself trapped. One has to understand this context and be willing to breathe in the despair that it so perfectly captures. It took me several intensive listening sessions to reach that epiphany myself, but once the pieces had fallen into place, there was no longer a question whether “Ender” had left an indelible mark on me, and indeed the repertoire of Danish metal in general. It is an ambitious and demanding piece of music, but if you like your post-metal with a pitchblack tint, you would be hard pressed to find a more spellbinding example of it than this, Redwood Hill’s magnum opus.

9

Download: Singularity, No Horizon, Absence, Polar, The Passage
For the fans of: Amenra, Cult of Luna, Lethvm, Year of No Light
Listen: Facebook

Release date 20.03.2020
Rakkerpark Records

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