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Wanderings (1998)

Wanderings is the first full-length album from the American black metal project known as I Shalt Become. There is a little confusion about this release, as it has been listed as originally being a cassette demo from 1996, and also attributed to S. Holliman's other project Birkenau. Later, it was said to be a demo from 1998. Either way, such details are not very important. Very hard to come by for many years, this album was finally re-released by Moribund Records in 2006 and made available to a new generation of music fanatics.

My first exposure to this band came a few years after this was released, hearing a couple songs from a friend and managing to record "The Funeral Rain" to a cassette. It was not the most impressive piece of music that I had heard, but it certainly satisfied my hunger for more black metal with a strong Burzum influence. I sought this out, on and off, for some time until the 2006 reissue took care of this problem. Sadly, by the time I acquired the full album, my desire for this style of music was waning.

Simply put, this is pure Burzum-worship, for the most part. The guitar tone owes a great deal to the Filosofem album, and it would appear that Herr Holliman was hoping to do his best in following up on that monumental release. The atmosphere of Wanderings is very gloomy and depressive; this is definitely not the CD that you want laying round if you are miserable and alone, with any sharp objects nearby. While not being all that original, the songwriting still succeeds in creating a dismal aura that threatens to drain the life right out of you. With the exception of a few brief moments, the album maintains a very down-tempo pace and this works well within the confines of the style. There is not an incredible amount of progression in the individual songs, though most conclude long before this becomes a problem. In fact, the simplistic approach aids the music in accomplishing in its goal of putting the listener in a suicidal trance.

The production is what one would expect, being rather grim and lo-fi, but not quite garage-quality. This is certainly easier on the ears than most of the LLN stuff, for example. The drums and vocals are buried in the mix, for the majority of the album, allowing the mournful guitar riffs to dominate the record and to become the focal point. The drums seem, obviously, programmed so it is all the better that they are kept low. At any rate, the guitar melodies should always be the primary focus anyway, so there are no complaints with this. The guitars have a cold and lifeless feeling about them, and certain melodies cut through the wall of sound to slice right into your chest. As for the vocals, this is a weakness that the album does well to minimize, since they are rarely at the forefront. The vocal performance is not all that bad, just nothing special. Only in some parts do the attempts at shrieked vocals come off as somewhat comical, killing a bit of the atmosphere.

The American black metal scene is not exactly known for producing quality material, but Wanderings is one of the few exceptions. It is not a classic, but it achieves its goal of creating dark and miserable black metal in the vein of Burzum, while adding a little something unique to it as well. The most important thing is that it succeeds in creating a sorrowful atmosphere that is perfect for a long night of misery and self-loathing.
(5 Sept. 2011)


I Shalt Become was an obscure black metal band from the United States, having one hard-to-find release floating around the underground and nothing more. In 2006, a deal was made with Moribund Records to re-release the demo on CD. Rumours spread that another full-length would be on the way, though the 2008 release of In the Falling Snow proved these to be wrong. This material was already available as a demo back in 1999, under the name of Birkenau. So, No Colours did the same as Moribund and merely re-released old music under a new moniker.

To put it simply, In the Falling Snow is as much of a carbon-copy of Wanderings as S. Holliman could create, without just re-recording the same songs again. Even the intro is a continuation of the one from the first album. The style is the same, betraying an extreme Burzum influence, particularly the Filosofem album. Most of the songs maintain a slow pace, creeping into your mind and conjuring up a sense of despair. The main difference is that a healthy dose of keyboards have been added, though not really helping the overall effect. These tracks sound nearly identical to the ones on the previous L.P. and maintain the same gloomy and depressive atmosphere. The vocal approach is more conservative, not attempting to go beyond a low growl. Unlike the countless one-man projects that came along to follow in the footsteps of Herr Holliman, I Shalt Become is quite successful at conveying a sense of bleak hopelessness that connects with the darkest feelings that reside within the spirit of the listener and bring them to the surface. Pathetic acts like Xasthur and Leviathan were never able to match the genuine feeling found here and were not even capable of adding any worthwhile elements to the sound. To listen to this album is to welcome the dark forces that watch from the shadows and to allow them to lure you further down the path toward death. A solitary journey through a freezing cold winter forest is what awaits, and it shall end only with the spilling of blood and a forgotten corpse laying in the crimson snow.

The production is grim and sub-par, just like Wanderings. The synth is too high in the mix, whenever it appears, but the fuzzy guitars still dominate the rest of the sound, rushing over you like waves of misery. The drum programming is not terribly noticeable, since it is buried beneath the rest, except the annoying rumbling sound caused by the double bass. There are times when it sounds as if the master tape was warped, as it seems that the music is being 'chewed up'. It all comes together, nicely, to compliment the overwhelmingly dreary atmosphere and probably assists in hiding the album's weaknesses, as well.

In the Falling Snow is nothing new for those familiar with I Shalt Become. It sounds like leftover tracks from Wanderings, though the quality is a little lower. The main reason for that impression may simply be because one gets the sense of hearing this all before, even on the first listen. This is recommended for anyone that was really into the first L.P. but did not get quite enough. Otherwise, there is really very little being offered here.
(24 Nov. 2011)

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