Sometimes you encounter a record, tape or CD that makes you think “That looks interesting… yes, why not give it a go?”. This is exactly the scenario that occurred with me in regards to White Medal‘s Heathen Ridings Return tape. Not having heard of the project before, and with some overtly typical black metal artwork (in this case, artwork featuring an Odal Rune and a Gothic-styled font in the logo), I was not expecting much to come from this. Thankfully for me, my experience with Heathen Ridings Return would prove to be a classic example of when the English idiom “don’t judge a book by its cover” should have been considered.
Hailing from Yorkshire, White Medal had originally intended for the material on this EP to be used on a split with fellow black metallers Instinct (which, owing to several unfortunate issues, was stopped dead in its tracks). It is for that reason that this material, which was recorded a few years ago, is only just now seeing the light of day. Heathen Ridings Return contains two long songs by one man (whom, for this release, has foregone any cliche black metal alias in favor of going with his own name, George Proctor) whom hails from Northern England — more specifically, West Yorkshire.
Proctor’s specific style of Heathen Black Metal has been created with a raw and isolated sound that really captures the by-gone eras of his locality. The first side of the tape is “Thrithjungar”, a massive sprawling, almost doom-like epic that has some exceptional vocal touches which almost capture the early sounds of more depressive projects like Xasthur — a sound and style that may appeal to many fans of the raw end of the genre. At points on the second side, “Throat Moor”, you can again feel the old-school sounds easing through the mix, which certainly ends up sounding reminiscent of early Mayhem, Ildjarn or Bone Awl (which more than explains the primitive approach). The chainsaw guitar and pounding drum approach (which actually are a nice change from the usual blast-beat affair of most bands) certainly adds to the oppressive atmosphere.
There are really only two problems I can find with this release. Firstly, even for an EP, Heathen Ridings Return is quite short; in addition — and this may only be a cosmetic complaint due to the style chosen to create the atmosphere on the album — the sound can sometimes be lost and muffled. Either way, this is an acquired taste, and a project that I certainly urge listeners to explore the back-catalog of before coming to their own conclusions.
B1) Throat Moor