Pushing their way through the spheres of terra, aqua, aer, and ignis and drifting into the void beyond for their Relapse Records debut, Wolvserpent have reimagined, refined, and re-recorded their excellent 2012 demo, ‘Perigaea’. The end result, ‘Perigea Antahkarana’, finds the Boise, Idaho duo of Blake Green and Brittany McConnell adding depth and layers to what was already a stunning release. Not simply content to re-record for the sake of attaining a “better” production, the band has, to a degree, altered their demo’s compositions and sequencing for ‘Perigea Antahkarana’, especially on the latter half of the album. As if sensed through precognition or recalled from a sedated sleep-state, moments of ‘Perigea Antahkarana’ are familiar to those who have listened to the demo, but there are still segments constructed from nothing and suffused with the essence of the album’s former incarnation.
Album opener “Threshold:Gateway” is instantly recognizable as “Perigaea I” from the band’s demo. Like its predecessor, this opening track could be a field recording from a windswept wasteland beyond the physical realm. It’s nearly four minutes of contemplation balanced precariously between an uneasy calm and a comfortable tension. At just under the four minute mark—a mere fraction of the album’s runtime—it doesn’t take the listener long to be initiated into Wolvserpent’s explorations of the classical elements of fire, water, air, and earth. Also retaining much of its original form is the album’s second track ‘Within the Light of Fire’. As with the demo version, ‘Within the Light of Fire’ is the bluntest, most overtly abrasive track of the album. The eerie violin tremolo of McConnell opens the track and remains embedded deep within the heart of the song allowing the riffs and guttural wails of Green to writhe from within the conflagration. “In Mirrors of Water” is the calm following the storm, a serene soundscape belied by the mournful strings of McConnell. Here, Wolvserpent have dug deeper into their own composition and have extended the track for an additional ten minutes of music that eventually evolves from a pulsating, kraut-rock drone to a frantic, blackened frenzy.
The remaining two tracks, “A Breath in the Shade of Time” and “Concealed Among the Roots and Soil”, are less recognizable than the first half of the album when compared to the demo. In fact, the songs have been broken down into their base elements, some of which have been removed, and reassembled into two complete, yet new, wholes. In almost every instance Wolvserpent has refined and improved their compositions, but it is lamentable that what was once “Perigaea IV” was so drastically broken down and reassembled, losing the sublime, transcendent beauty of the track’s ambient intro. Despite the vast difference “A Breath in the Shade of Time” is still a stellar tune, and the differences merely contribute to the vitality and replay value of the ‘Perigaea’ demo. Album closer “Concealed Among the Roots and Soil” borrows elements from the final two tracks of the demo and ultimately brings the listener round full circle to the cawing crows and crackling fire of “Threshold:Gateway” thus ending the listener’s journey.
In almost every respect ‘Perigea Antahkarana’ is an improvement over the seedling that was the ‘Perigaea’ demo. The band’s commitment to perfection has yielded one of the year’s most unique and powerful albums, particularly for travelers seeking dark roads, bad trips, or heady introspection. And while ‘Perigea Antahkarana’ isn’t completely new, the album and the demo offer journeys that are divergent enough to warrant checking out both. Wolvserpent’s latest may not be for everyday listening, but it certainly fills the void that is left untouched by anything lacking the sheer beauty and terror of ‘Perigea Antahkarana’.
Words: Steve Miller