Surprisingly, I hadn’t come across Geneva based Impure Wilhelmina before I had this album to review. They tick a lot of boxes for me: as a child I went to school in Geneva for a year, I very much like metal with some French lyrics and they’re on a label I respect and always look forward to albums from (Season of Mist). So quite how I’d managed to be unaware of their existence for so long is beyond me to explain.
A quick trawl through the internet suggests that this is their sixth album to date, so I have some catching up to do. The style is very much angst-laden if-onlys. An easy comparison would be Katatonia, but for me they are even closer to The Old Dead Tree. The music is towards the doom end of things, but with some quite compelling instrumental interludes where the musicianship and craftsmanship is allowed to shine. Melancholic melody would be a nice catchy heading to file them under (certainly for this album).
Opener “Great Falls Beyond Death” pretty much sums it up: bleak, despairing and beautiful. There’s a lot of death and misunderstanding going on here. Just when you think that’s all there is, they throw in one of those instrumental bits where everything seems to shift slightly (except for the melancholy of course). “Torn” is another superb litany of sadness, touching as it does on the concept of always feeling oneself to be an outsider.
For me the absolute stand out track, however, is “We Need a New Sun”. The vocals are haunting and beautiful. The imagery is stark, but beautifully detailed. The music becomes heavy, then less heavy and the hair on the back of my neck stands up every time (probably the odd minor key in there somewhere).
You should always finish on a high note, and final track “Race With You” definitely does that. The plaintive opening segues into a heavy section which still manages to encapsulate the sadness that has gone before. And then, the best bit for me, it cuts back to another plaintive piece, but this time in French.
I really can’t come up with a single negative about this album: I really enjoyed it. It has all the elements of the best of melancholic metal blended with the Swiss/French interpretation of metal which I love so much.
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