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Lighting a new fire where 2009's intriguing Loss previously smoked itself out, Wodensthrone's second album, Curse, casts inquisitive musical travelers right back into the hazy mists of time immemorial: a state where the lines between history and legend, fact and fantasy, known and unknown dimensions blur and soften to a diaphanous haze masking monsters, mayhem, and mysteries of all kinds. You know…Sunderland. In all seriousness, these wide-open thematic boundaries actually suit the British quintet's folk and symphonic music-laden black metal quite perfectly, and the endless potential permutations (or, perhaps more fittingly, mutations) that ensue can only broaden a band's creative options to no end...right? Well, why don't we let Wodensthrone help us test the limits of such assumptions with the songs contained in Curse. Take insistently violent black metal displays like "The Remaining Few/Jormungandr," "The Great Darkness," and "The Storm," for example: while they often shine brightly with improbably lush, occasionally even rather uplifting orchestral embellishments, the resulting contrasts seem almost to mock the primitive screeching (or death-like growls) and relentless thrashing found at their core. Arguably much more interesting are the isolated moments of experiment sprinkled here and there, including the faerie song midsection of "First Light," the woodland percussion of "Battle Lines," the sublime melodies preempting a consistently engaging highlight named "Wyrgthu," and the atmospheric (literally -- listen to those howling winds) of "The Name of the Wind." Were it not for these (mostly) occasional flashes of inspiration, Wodensthrone's songs wouldn't always stand out quite as expected, and one can't help but feel that a tougher editorial approach (i.e., many tracks are simply too long and overwrought) would also be a pretty good idea. Nevertheless, both the band's overall musical vision and instrumental chops have evidently improved in the years between Loss and Curse, so there is hope for further evolution as Wodensthrone peer through the mists of reality and myth that lie before them.

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