WYLLT: BLACK MATH HORSEMAN’S DECEPTIVELY STRONG DEBUT
A close read of Black Math Horseman’s name will ultimately lead to disappointment: “Black” denotes black metal, but sadly, there is none; “Math” signifies shifting time signatures and jerky rhythms, but band’s album is fairly light on that front; and “Horseman” could hearken back to black metal yet again, or perhaps Amon Amarth-style romp through kick-ass melodic death metal. But, alas, the parts of Black Math Horseman’s name certainly don’t add up to the assumed whole; in fact, their name is up there with Massive Attack and Lamb of God in terms of misleading band monikers. But this doesn’t mean Black Math Horseman suck. Though different – on top of their bizarre name – from your average brand of spacey post-metal, Wyllt, the band’s debut, has a lot packed into what seems to be a measly package: a short running time with relatively brief songs, a lot of atmosphere and, upon first listen, not a lot of hooks. But they stuff a lot beneath the surface, and after Wyllt reveals itself, there’s a considerable amount of substance that will burrow its way into you. Though maybe not in the way you think, Black Math Horseman are hard to dismiss.
Though nuance isn’t necessarily a hallmark to the general umbrella of a genre that birthed “Christraping Black Metal,” “Entrails Ripped from a Virgin’s Cunt,” and anything in the Anal Cunt catalog, Wyllt has it in spades. The first few listens may not yield anything of note, with the band feeling around the same peaks and valleys that post-metal is so well known for (though in not as dramatic a fashion as most of their peers). But the last two songs pack all the accessible riffs alongside what Black Math Horseman had been meandering around, leaving one to wonder what in the hell had just happened, and whether or not they had been paying attention. And returning to Wyllt will reveal what can be so easily missed: though lacking the enormous terraced dynamics of Isis or Cult of Luna, the band slowly build and retract sparse riffs that manage to stick to you. The last two songs, perhaps the force that drew you back, only become more effective after noticing the inner workings and interesting interplay that had been going on all along.
The band’s playing is nothing to sneeze at, either. The sinewy guitar lines recall Pelican or even a sad Fugazi, the drums are subtle but inventive, and bassist/vocalist Sera Timms sounds like Jarboe getting voice lessons from Grace Slick after downing a bottle of Tylenol PM in the back of a church (all of which is bolstered by former Kyuss/Obsessed bassist Scott Reeder’s reverb-drenched production). The band playing off of each other’s stengths manage to make Wyllt an album of lush arrangements that stops short of sounding bloated or melodramatic. And much like Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood, the ending will make you go back and rethink the parts that you may have found trying or slow-moving initially, perhaps viewing them in a whole new light. There Will Be Blood had only a few violent scenes in it, and very little literal blood to speak of. Black Math Horseman don’t unleash the complex viking metal record some may have been expecting, but what emerges in the meantime isn’t so bad either.
(3 1/2 out of 5 horns)