Stagwounder – Invisible Radiance (2015)

Considered a mixture of black and doom metal, these Germans might appear on paper (or as my band photo shows) as a bunch of coffee drinking, laptop carrying hipsters (kind of sounds like myself, except even more hipsterish now that I’ve switched over to tea) but it’s these kinds of German hipsters who will dare to experiment beyond the realms of traditional black and doom metal in order to create something altogether different. They’ve got the tremolos and vocal rasps down pretty well, often heading towards a dreary, yet very melodic place. I guess you could say that it even reminds me of early Woods Of Ypres a little, even thought that’s still a bit reaching. In any case, Stagwounder have made an album that doesn’t necessarily play by the rules and could work to offend more than a few of the ridiculous purists. Yet what I hear when I give this disc a thorough listen (as I have) is a highly promising young act that are really giving it all they have in order to make a record that sounds as artistically pleasing as it is terribly morose. Don’t get it twisted folks, this is definitely black metal and it definitely seems to have the occult references and themes that we’d readily expect – it’s just done in an art house style that might appeal more to fans who don’t like black metal so much, especially the traditional minimalist nature of the genre’s early days.

Aside from some unexpectedly bizarre riff combinations, Stagwounder also employ slight electronic sections in order to build their atmosphere and these can be heard throughout the album, especially right near the end. They prove that someone in the band is quite skilled in the industrial department, which definitely helps an album that you otherwise wouldn’t expect to hear these kinds of effects on at all. But that just goes to show the great lengths that these gentlemen are willing to traverse in order to experiment and truly make the music their own. Stagwounder also utilize a cleaner style of vocal tone that seems more fitted for doom or post metal, but it’s not used as frequently as the harsh rasps that you’ll hear in most of the disc. In a way, I’m a bit reminded of Primordial’s Alan Averill.

Since the band revel so much in these atmospheric and artsy realms, it’s not out of the ordinary to hear something a bit “prettier” than you’d find in a standard black metal release. It even does sound a little like light indie rock, but I see no issue in that and it helps to keep things vibrant and flowing. Stagwounder could have merely dived headfirst into those same old black metal ruts which result in a series of records that all sound roundabout the same, but with Invisible Radiance I’m thankful that I’m actually getting a record that gives me the best of both worlds, from a band that doesn’t care whom they offend with their sound and style. If you’re a fan of incredibly melodic and weird atmospheres, as well as fantastic guitar playing and truly passionate vocal work, then you’re going to find something memorable here. It’s still a raw recording, but I feel there’s just enough polish to properly discern the experience and it’s one that you will soon want to carry with you as you go out for long walks, or drives. Once again, it’s pretty…. pretty and bleak. But I’d simply have it no other way. Definitely a band to watch out for, there’s no question about it.

(6 Tracks, 48:00)

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