Old Silver Key - Tales Of Wanderings
Season Of Mist
Post-Black, Shoegaze
7 songs (38:00)
Release year: 2011
Season Of Mist
Reviewed by Goat

The unfairly harsh fan reaction in 2010 to Drudkh’s excellent Handful Of Stars clearly had an impact on the band, so much so that the announcement of a side-project to focus on that album’s shoegaze elements followed shortly after. Alcest’s Neige thus joins the Drudkhian boys here for an exploration of that sub-genre, and although there are elements of Drudkh’s natural pleasantry referenced here and there, by far the largest focus is on Neige’s post-rock/shoegaze influences. Even the fairy-tale atmosphere that graces the cover and music of the album is Neige territory, meaning that those looking for the Roman Saenko who roared and bellowed on past Drudkh albums will have to wait awhile longer for their gruff hero to reappear. Those like myself, however, who love Alcest and its focus on melody and melancholy will find much to love in Old Silver Key’s debut release, although it seems to take a perverse delight in being difficult to get to grips with from the beginning.

The odd tapping and clinking of intro What Once Was And Will Never Happen Again will have heads scratching. Yet it’s the main songs themselves that frustrated me most, some excellent, some not, with little to hold the album together as a cohesive whole or give it a sense of flow or purpose. Take Cold Spring as an example, beginning with near-cinematic loveliness from Neige before raw black metal guitars start buzzing in the background under blastbeats, slightly damaging the mood and making you wonder if the Drudkhmen were a little too eager and decided to burst into black metal before the music called for it. The result isn’t terrible once you’re gotten used to it, especially once you realise that the song was written deliberately to incorporate these moments, but it is jarring and doesn’t fit the album’s flow well. Nineteen Winters Far Away From Home is fuelled by blasting, too, an instrumental with some moments of percussive complexity the only real thing that marks it out.

Having said that, there’s much to wholeheartedly love. First track proper November Nights Insomnia starts well enough, upbeat guitars and acoustic strums only enhanced when Neige’s vocals appear, although the ensuing section of constant cymbal crashes will set some teeth grinding. Fortunately it’s over soon, and we’re back worshipping at the altar of Neige as his crooning leads the nicely organic instrumentation. The enjoyable post-punk rhythms that pop up here and there in the album are superbly incorporated, making Star Catcher the sort of track that Handful Of Stars did so well, exuberantly progressive and with much vocal loveliness to drive it onwards in your heart and soul. It’s a real highlight, a catchy yet deep and hypnotically involving song with that organic instrumentation working together very well to create an engaging whole. Burnt Letters (crooning and melodic) and the eight-minute About Which An Old House Dreams end the album solidly, the latter especially with its slower, more refined feel and piano tinkles.

All in all, it’s hard to avoid the impression that Old Silver Key are a work in progress rather than a triumphant end-product. Some songs are seemingly properly thought-out, and some seem a bit too much like hastily-written experiments. This is a shame, because when Tales of Wanderings is good, it’s brilliant, and even the less good songs do work well enough to make Old Silver Key worth recommending overall. Leaving the shakiness in the songwriting aside, I’d go so far as to say there’s a great deal to recommend about Tales Of Wanderings, and if the thought of Neige working with Drudkh is enough to get you excited, then there’ll be more than enough on this album to satisfy you in that regard, even though the material here isn’t anywhere near as good as either Alcest or Drudkh. Let’s hope any future albums from this project are truly as good as the ingredients promise.

Killing Songs :
Star Catcher, Burnt Letters, About Which An Old House Dreams
Goat quoted 77 / 100
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