Wildernessking’s The Writing of Gods in the Sand is one of the most mind-boggling debut albums I’ve ever heard. How did a band that’s only been together since 2010 (they were previously known as Heathens) manage to craft something so stunning, so epic, so complete sounding, on their first time out? Sure, there have been some great metal debuts throughout the genre’s history, but let’s be honest, more often than not, especially these days, it takes the average band a couple of albums to hit their stride and release something truly great. Wildernessking is no average band; after listening to The Writing of Gods in the Sand, I’d say they’re bonafide prodigies.
The Cape Town, South Africa-based quartet is firmly rooted in black metal, combined with progressive tendencies and a knack for creating sweeping epics that push the genre’s boundaries well beyond their breaking point. There’s perhaps some Primordial and Enslaved lurking within their sound, but Wildernessking’s approach is largely a singular one; no doubt a byproduct of gestating in relative isolation, far away from metal’s epicenters. As a result the band isn’t afraid to take bits and pieces of whatever genres it sees fit (both metallic and otherwise), grafting them onto their blackened framework in order to create one multi-headed beast. With that said, The Writing of Gods in the Sand is not some hastily thrown together Frankenstein of an album, but rather a seamless synthesis of a wide range of ideas and influences.
While black metal might be the jumping off point for Wildernessking, the songs are far from grim or depressing. Each track is a stainless steel bird of prey screaming through the heavens, ready to unleash its talons and rip the sunlit sky to shreds. There is something strangely uplifting, empowering and even beautiful about the music even when it’s at its most scathing, an invigorating feeling that gets your heart racing and your blood pumping. Wildernessking infuse their compositions with such a strong dynamic range and sense of pathos that one cannot help but be affected by it.
The more one listens to The Writing of Gods in the Sand, the more abundantly clear it becomes that Wildernessking is a very special band with a bright future ahead of them. The album leaves you with the distinct impression that they could more than competently take their sound in any direction at any given moment. That just might be what is ultimately the most intriguing aspect of Wildernessking; being overcome by the rare sensation of having your ears opened up to a realm of infinite musical possibilities.