Okay Sunwølf, this is getting a bit silly now. You can’t go releasing an album every year and get dramatically better results every time. You’re making everyone else look a bit naff.
Sunwølf’s third album Beholden to Nothing and No One is a double-disc release and expands the band’s ambient doom from being fully instrumental to now including a disc supported by a range of vocal styles which include female singing and male screaming. The vocals add some beautiful texture to the band’s oppressive and claustrophobic music with the female vocals being used for the more delicate side of the band’s sound and the screaming being used for the more aggressive, metallic side of the music. It’s wonderful to see how well Sunwølf’s music works with the simple addition of vocals.
The first disc also manages to pull off that fantastic Sunwølf staple of taking you on a journey. Sunwølf have an uncanny ability to soundtrack Terry Gilliam films that don’t exist yet and Beholden… is no exception. The disc begins fairly slow and emphasises minimalistic instrumentation to create a foreboding atmosphere that builds over the course of the album before guitarist Matt Carrington stomps on the overdrive pedal and unleashes hell.
Sunwølf experiment further on the second disc of the album by returning to their instrumental roots but only to get even more psychedelic. The second disc of Beholden… messes with texture and builds enormous walls of noise that could summon demon’s from the depths below. There’s a heavier exploration of drone and electronic elements are also employed to add another mysterious layer or intrigue to the band’s music.
Rounding out this monstrous package is a spectacular production job that’s sharp and clean during the band’s more ambient moments to help emphasise the delicate instrumentation, but raw and unkempt during the more aggressive movements. Despite the varied styles the production actually manages to hold all the music together and make a cohesive package.
Sunwølf’s Beholden to Nothing and No One is a gargantuan epic that traverses many genres but always feels focussed. A double album clocking in at an hour and 23 minutes might strike you as an impenetrable time investment but Beholden… never outstays its welcome. There’s a reason why this album is so long and it’s because it’s stuffed to the brim with interesting, thought-provoking music that’s always changing and always engaging. Sunwølf have written their masterpiece and it’s one of the most essential listening experiences of the year.
Sunwølf’s Beholden to Nothing and No One is out today and available to order on double CD direct from the band.