Wodensthrone are a British black metal outfit who formed in 2005. At least the Metal Archives categorize them that way, though I think the classification may be somewhat incomplete. Last month they released this, their second full-length album, following their 2009 debut "Loss". The group, as their name implies, draw their lyrical themes largely from Norse mythology. Other branches of old Germanic culture work their way in as well, though, particularly those which played a role in ancient Britain. They claim to have spiritual practices and beliefs linked to these old pagan systems, so in contrast with many Viking-esque bands they take their subject matter at least somewhat seriously.
The music itself falls into that that black hole of ambiguity that lies on the highly debatable boundaries between black, pagan, and Viking metal. Rather than simply lying there in the middle ground, though, it drifts from one to the next. Some tracks, like "The Storm" seem to fully qualify as outright black metal, while others like the lengthy closer "The Name of the Wind" seem more like pagan metal, featuring a somewhat progressive edge. There are even some places that seem to briefly approach melodeath. These shifts do a good deal to keep the album interesting, as their sound never settles into a rut.
Throughout, the guitar riffs are very effective: cold and often slightly haunting. They are not, however, confined to the slicing thinness of Norwegian black metal. The keyboards are, for the most part, employed tastefully and effectively. It's easy to go overboard in that department, so it's nice that they've managed to keep a healthy balance. The drums stand out as having a very full tone for an album in the black metal sphere, and they are played with variety and skill befitting the style and tempo shifts that occur over the course of the record. The vocals are likewise highly adaptable and effective, with hoarse black metal shrieks in one track and meaty, mid-range death growls in the next. Some background effects like howling winds, in addition to simulated traditional instruments, are used to solid effect in different places as well. The production is good, leaving a little grit and fuzz but allowing the instruments to be clearly audible with the unsurprising exception of the bass.
This is a long album, clocking in at over an hour despite having only eight tracks (seven if you exclude the thirty-nine-second intro). It should come as no surprise, then, that the tracks generally don't move at a terribly hurried pace. There are energetic passages, but for the most part the music is more about maintaining a particular mood than about pummeling the listener. This might make the album feel a bit too slow for some, though personally I find great pleasure in allowing the songs to unfold.
Very good, very interesting Viking/pagan/black metal with excellent handling of mood and fluid changes in tempo.