Phil Elverum is an artist known for creating both intimate and delicate indie folk and enormous, explosive blasts of mega-distorted fuzz rock. Sometimes these elements would all be wrapped up in one album, such as on his 2001 masterpiece, The Microphones’ The Glow Part Two. Yet sometimes he keeps his discipline to one aspect, as on last year’s darkly beautiful Lost Wisdom. No matter the case, he very rarely makes an album well suited for car rides or living room consumption. His work either requires the intensely private space of one’s own headphones, or a speaker system with volume capabilities beastly enough to blast into a valley and across a mountainside. Mount Eerie’s newest album, Wind’s Poem, is most frequently a case of the latter.
Elverum has said that one of the biggest inspirations for Wind’s Poem is the work of U.S. black metal artists such as Xasthur, so it should come as no surprise that the album is, in various parts, one of Elverum’s loudest works. The album, itself, is not a black metal album so much as an epic, indie rock album that incorporates various elements of haunting, cinematic and supernatural metal. The closest that Elverum & Co. come to the blistering, cavernous roar of Xasthur or Wolves in the Throne Room is on the opening track, “Wind’s Dark Poem,” a furious rush of distortion and sweeping, majestic riffs that sounds not so much like a poem as it does an extended clap of thunder. It’s big, and it’s mighty, and at times emits high-pitched shrieks that are somewhat frightening. Suffice to say, it’s awesome.
Wind’s Poem is not exclusively composed of booming metal-inspired songs, and the balance between its quieter moments and its louder ones finds it in slight kinship with The Glow Part Two. Yet this album contains few catchy, two-minute indie pop songs and more dirges, ambience and noise experiments. That said, it’s actually quite accessible. The album’s other most dramatic track, the 11-minute “Through The Trees,” comes right after the first one, offsetting the opener’s gut-wrenching waves of distortion with woozy organs and a serene kind of eeriness that could only be fitting for a band called Mount Eerie.
The album’s remaining 10 tracks alternate between soft, atmospheric tracks and more furious blasts of metal-inspired fuzz, a duality that creates a perfect balance, one that finds Elverum’s soft and stoic demeanor providing the human voice that teeters somewhere in between. “My Heart Is Not at Peace” is a dark and brooding number, whereas “The Hidden Stone” erupts into another destructive, distorted monster. Electronic pulses and sweeping brushes of cymbal make “Wind Speaks” into a beautiful standout, while those cymbals become more like violent weaponry in the chaotic rumble of “The Mouth of The Sky.” After alternating between harrowing rockers and unsettling ambience, Elverum issues a reasonably catchy indie pop song in “Between Two Mysteries,” a lovely and impeccably crafted highlight. “Ancient Questions” is similarly stunning and approachable, all shimmering keyboards and bassy, reverb-heavy guitar; simply gorgeous.
While “Lost Wisdom Pt. 2” may reincorporate the name of Mount Eerie’s previous album, the sound unleashed is miles from it, a buzzing hellish march that echoes the violent wind themes throughout the album and in Elverum’s lyrics: “I think the screaming wind said my name.” And while “Stone’s Ode” may be one of the album’s prettier, softer songs, it actually references Burzum, one of the most infamous titans of black metal.
Much like the gusts of air in the album’s title and in the themes that blow throughout, Wind’s Poem is very much a force of nature. One of Phil Elverum’s most densely layered albums, in addition to one of his most destructive, it’s an exciting, if extremely intense, new side of the Pacific Northwest singer-songwriter. While just about everything Elverum does proves to be consistently interesting and enjoyable, Wind’s Poem stands out as one of his best and most accomplished works. Discovering black metal may be the best thing to happen to him.
The Microphones – The Glow Part Two
Wolves in the Throne Room – Two Hunters
Tiny Vipers – Life on Earth
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.