In today’s music, you have to be more than talented. You can’t just play your music with passion and technicality. You have to find a way to stand out, you have to find something that will make your music be heard. You have to find a way to innovate. This is not me speaking, I, honestly, love a band that doesn’t use bells and whistles, gimmicks and clichés to make their music. I love the technically proficient, emotionally charged, and deep meaning music. Unfortunately, I stand in a minority, or at least a very silent majority in this. It’s a sad reality that bands have to come up with ways to be different as much as they need to come up with ways to express who they are. Can’t we express ourselves and thereby be unique? Oh how long I have pondered that very question (it applies to writers as well as musicians of course). I was contacted by a Russian group called Heather Wasteland in regards to a “Why We Do What We Do” piece and I found one of those rare bands that is innovative, unique, and immensely talented. The only issue holding me back from telling the entire world about these talented guys was the fact that they only had one song, and I’m notoriously against reviewing just singles. Well that problem is gone with their debut EP “Under the Red Wolfish Moon.” In truth this is a band that I would have broken my own rules to review but thankfully I didn’t have to.
What makes Heather Wasteland so unique? They call their particular brand of music “Heretical Folk Art,” and they use bass and drums. That’s it. The four piece uses three different bass guitars (a 4-string, 5-string, and a 6-string) and drums to create their unique sound. Their single, “Under the Red Wolfish Moon” absolutely blew me away because there seemed no way that such melodious rhythms and melodies could come from just drums and bass guitars. It’s something else. At a loss for words, I’ll agree with them and call their music heretical folk art.
There aren’t any vocals so the onus is on the music to really tell a story. Folk music is designed for that sort of storytelling. Music has the amazing ability to present images in the mind completely independent of lyrics or vocals, often the music is a counterpoint to the vocals because the music is so much stronger and more vivid.
With Under the Red Wolfish Moon I felt myself transported to the cold winter nights of Russia and, though I have never been there and likely won’t ever visit, I felt as though I was there. The music is entirely responsible for such an experience. The title track is one I’ve heard now at least four dozen times and it hasn’t gotten old, in fact I’ve caught myself humming the melody as I go about my day. I can feel my heart stir and race as it begins in a rush, like running through the primordial boreal forests, chasing after the wolves or being the wolf (the perspective is almost interchangeable here so I like imagining both sides of the story). There’s fear in the music, but also wild exhilaration, an urge to run off into the woods just to see what’s there, to see something that hasn’t been seen yet, to see the world as it should be without the over mechanizations of humanity.
And remember, all the music you’re hearing is only bass and drums. Maybe I’m just easy to impress, but I think the ability to craft such wonders with only a two instruments is special.
There are times where the music drifts off into a dungeon synth like territory but never quite commits to jumping it. Under the Red Wolfish Moon dances on the edge, gathering many of the unique sounds associated with dungeon synth and folk music to craft something that stands on its own. It has a sort of fantasy like quality that brings me back to my childhood, reading Lord of the Rings, the Black Cauldron, and other classics while playing a soundtrack in my head of the adventures unfolding in the text. Now that same sense of adventure is playing out in the text of the music of Heather Wasteland. This is the kind of music that takes the listener to the edge of the horizon and tells them to jump. It’s exciting.
There’s such an undeniable link to the pagan, heathen past of Russia’s history that gives the album strength as well. It’s an honest, if not bombastic at times, album whose intentions are clear: remember the old days and the old ways. They might be gone from current events but the heroes and stories of old can never die as long as we remember them.
Under the Red Wolfish Moon is a delight, it’s a breath of fresh air in a genre that it’s hard to stand out in. The music is harmonious yet strong. I’ll liken it to a horn of my favorite beer, Bayern’s Dragon Breath, it’s harsh and sour in places but its strong and smooth at the same, it’s dark but it’s not black. Check out Heather Wasteland and I promise you that you will not be disappointed.
Listen and support!