Genre fusion is kind of like an organ transplant. If the organ is not right for the body, it will be rejected, the transplant will fail and the organism will die. Portugal’s Wistful are the latest in a growing number of post-rock/ black metal fusion bands. Unlike many of their counterparts, Wistful have not found the right blend of the two genres and the transplant is failing. While most post-black metal bands take their inspiration from the darker, more somber post rock acts like Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Explosions in the Sky, Wistful displays more of an influence from the lighter, calmer acts such as Tortoise and Do Make Say Think. That style of play simply does not blend with black metal.
Wistful’s self-titled debut sounds like a bunch of talented musicians jamming together but being on totally different pages (what’s so strange about it is that this is a one man band). The music is composed of a crisp, clean rhythm section a wall of fuzzy black metal guitar. The later simply does not fit in with the former. The bass and guitar especially clash. The bass is effervescent, poppy and up front. It might be the least compatible style of bass playing for black metal riffs imaginable. Similarly, the black metal vocals often sound completely out of place in such sunny music.
With this sort of clash, something has to give, and in this case it’s the black metal dimension. There is no one thing black metal has to be, but there is spectrum of moods and emotions it is capable of capturing. Wistful’s debut falls wholly outside that spectrum. This has to be the least intense, least moody, brightest black metal album I have ever heard. The album is totally void of every dimension of the black metal aesthetic.
On the positive side, this debut does show a very talented and multifaceted musician (whoever the man behind Wistful is) at work. Along with drums, bass and guitar, “Wistful” contains some quality performances on cello and piano. But will this talented musician waste his career fusing discordant styles?
Since his attitude and aesthetic are more inclined toward the post-rock style, I hope he decides to drop the black metal riffs and vocals and just play post rock. There are actually some nice moments of post rock on the album, (i.e. the opening passage of “Ego”) but inevitably they are interrupted with awkward fusions with black metal. If Wistful ever decide to simplify their formula they could probably release a real good album. Until then, this awkward fusion of mellow, clean post rock and black metal is just too uneven and clashing to enjoy.