Duncan Evans and Wilderness Hymnal – Until Liars Fear You
Release Date: 05.11.21
Running Time: 44:23
Review by Dark Juan
Greetings and salutations, incubi and succubi! It is I, Dark Juan, and I have returned from my sojourn to Whitby, and my subsequent cavorting on the very beach on which the Demeter was wrecked, with the Smellhounds, and Mrs Dark Juan. She got very, very bored of me telling her about Dracula. And James Cook and HM Bark Endeavour. And other ship rigging. Even barquentine windjammers. Very bored indeed. She almost offered me violence! Me! Your favourite writer of nonsense and bullshit, with an occasional musical component! The shame, the absolute shame.
At least the Mighty Gothikpanzer made it there and back this time. On a more cheerful and less violent note – we did enter a hostelry or two along Church Street, and enjoy some delicious single malts. I must also give profound thanks to the two new friends we have made (Elaine and Loz), who let us stay in their cottage for what can only be described as a fucking steal! A good time was had by all. I am seated in Mrs Dark Juan’s craft eyrie at the moment, where she is currently cunningly constructing cryptids for an exhibition in Whitby on October 21st for the Folk Horror Revival group.
Equally pleasingly, there is now a craft brewery open across the road from the Abbey. Pints were consumed and a wobbly, unsteady walk back down the 199 Steps was had, thankfully without injury, apart from my dignity.
To be fair, I’ve never really had any, so it didn’t really matter. As evidenced to all the young goffs wandering around who got offended when I asked them where Count Duckula had crashed his pinnace. To business…
A split record from a splendid chap called Duncan Evans (WaxWorm, ex-A Forest Of Stars) and another gentleman (of British-Venezuelan stock, but born in Gibraltar. Not at all confusing to a half-demented Northerner who is still furious at the Disclosure and Barring Service, because their website keeps crashing, and I need to update my DBS certificate so I can continue to wrangle young gentlemen, and it won’t let me!) named Javier Wallis, entitled ‘Until Liars Fear You’ has landed upon my (metaphorical) desk for my delectation, and hopefully, your edification. Javier records under the name Wilderness Hymnal, and the first five songs on the record are his work.
Wilderness Hymnal are phenomenally interesting if you like Drone and Shoegaze, as Javier feeds those styles into a musical mincer that also incorporates Post-Metal, European Folk music, Scandinavian Folk, and electronics. Out of this mélange of influences comes something quite special. ‘Comet’, the opening cut on the record, has a feel of kulning and wild Scandinavian country being scoured by icy winds and a raiding fleet returning to port. ‘I Buried My Teeth’ takes us through silent, misty musical hinterlands, as if you are stalking through the undergrowth, until the crash of a heavily distorted guitar jerks you to attention – I found it allegorical to a predator hunting in a forest and the slam of the guitar being the point of impact, where the predator overpowers the prey, and then the subsequent rending and tearing of flesh, the gouts of blood and pain, and serrated teeth and eventually, blessed black oblivion. Although this music is absolutely modern and cutting edge, it doesn’t lose the feeling of the songs being folk tales told around roaring hearths, among half-drunken landsmen. And that is fucking brilliant, to be honest. It also helps that Javier is a multi-instrumentalist genius who plays (checks notes) keyboards, piano, and dulcimer, as well as sings, does the programming, and produces his own music. The absolute bastard. I have been looking at the electric guitar that I’d forgotten I owned, and was contemplating playing it again. Wilderness Hymnal have put paid to that idea. Anyone want to buy a Squier Jagmaster?
So, if you dig the work of Chelsea Wolfe and Ulver, you’re going to enjoy Wilderness Hymnal mightily. I love the mix of Folk, Drone, and Shoegaze, which leads to music that effortlessly conjures imagery of dark, misty forests, and half-glimpsed shadows tracking your every move…
On the sixth track on the album, ‘Three Tempers’, Wilderness Hymnal and Duncan Evans collaborate on a song that is a perfect passing on of the baton from the organic, living thing that is the music of WH, to the electronic emotional wasteland that the august Mr. Evans exists in. The folk element of the song curls sinuously around gentle guitar work from the man himself, and the whooshing, atmospheric keyboards from Javier Wallis, with mournful, wailing cello underpinning the whole heartrending thing.
We then come to the storytelling and sparse electronics of Duncan Evans. Truly a man who has discovered that less is more when it comes to music, he employs his voice and his emotional delivery to send out songs that are more tales than anything else, most ably demonstrated on “Mouse Mask” – the tale of a bank robbery by three men in mouse masks, where Duncan places himself temporarily in the persona of one of the protagonists, and doesn’t dress up the fright and tension that you would feel as anything heroic or special.
Duncan Evan’s music takes inspiration from Post-Punk, and the odd bit of New Wave, but the idiot writing this loves his music because it feels like a modern amalgamation of Kraftwerk (simple tempos and surprising humanity emanating from robotic electronic music) and Suicide (the strange and outré flourishes, the sheer ACUMEN of the lyrics, and the beeps and squelches and overall feeling of the music), and Satan be praised, I fucking ADORE Kraftwerk and Suicide. The Suicide influence is absolutely paramount on ‘The Waiting Room (No Exit Part 1)’, with the sense of slowly building menace and barely contained violence the song displays, before it seamlessly segues into ‘The Stars (No Exit Part 2)’, which abruptly switches gear from Suicide, to almost classical in concept and vocal delivery. Duncan steps back from vocal performance, to hand the reins to Phil Wilcox, who changes the dynamic of the vocal to an almost choral voice, and the aching blackness just flows from him as he regards the stars from a window, being the only points of light in the protagonist’s life. Bloody wonderful. ‘Breath’ I have already described in a previous review, and I praised the emotion of the song then. My opinion hasn’t changed on repeated listening, either. It’s a magnificent piece of music. ‘Mouse Mask’ sweeps along on very Suicide-sounding keyboards before acoustic guitar creeps into your attention on the middle eight, and remains just below the main body of the instrumentation.
So, one LP and two artists, both of whom I admire for different reasons, combine to create a work of supreme importance for atmospheric music as a whole. If you dig feelings and cinematic soundscapes, you’ll love this record. Heavy metal it isn’t, though, which is why I have deducted a mark because Ever-Metal.com is supposed to be a metal website, but it is an album of complexity and emotion and intelligence that should absolutely be of interest to everybody who listens to music to be blown away or beguiled, and not just to take shitloads of party treats and gurn at everyone while guzzling endless bottles of water in a field somewhere in rural Staffordshire where all you can hear is thumping.
The Patented Dark Juan Blood Splat Rating System awards Duncan Evans and Wilderness Hymnal a stonking 9/10 for a record that is absolutely superb in execution and hauntingly emotional.
02. I Buried My Teeth
03. The Hunter
04. Old Dogs
06. Three Tempers
08. The Waiting Room (No Exit Part 1)
09. The Stars (No Exit Part 2)
11. Mouse Mask
WILDERNESS HYMNAL LINE-UP:
Javier Wallis – vocals, keyboards, piano, dulcimer, arrangements, programming, production.
With help from:
Michael Peter Kelly – electric guitar, bass guitar.
Noah Eamon – violin.
Mirthe de Jonge – cello
John Simm – drums and percussion (I Buried My Teeth).
Melle Berendsen – backing vocals (I Buried My Teeth).
Nick Duke – bass guitar (Old Dogs).
Gydo Keijzer – drums (Old Dogs).
Dauwpunt – production, mixing (The Hunter, Old Dogs).
Joe Garcia – production, mixing (I Buried My Teeth).
DUNCAN EVANS LINE-UP:
Duncan Evans – vocals, guitars, synths, bass guitar, programming, production, mixing.
With help from:
Phil Wilcox – vocals on ‘The Stars (No Exit part 2)’
LINKS (Wilderness Hymnal):
LINKS (Duncan Evans):
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