rom the Cree Indians comes Saskatchewan. Meaning “swift flowing river,” it’s home to major municipalities Swift Current, Moose Jaw, and the Episcopal borough, Prince Albert. In Little Big Horn’s wake, Sitting Bull led his people to the foothills of Wood Mountain; years later, the Ku Klux Klan flourished in the region; the Klansmen’s cruciform burned bright in barren prairies. The potential for racial violence and the mysteries of Sitting Bull’s Sioux have yellowed on cut pages. Insurance and real estate agents are as prevalent now as the geese and terns that trace inebriated circles over Wascana Park. But the Land of Living Skies lives on through three natives who care to embody their trickster origin. It is an inception of deception in the midst of raw nature, where the ground breathes as often as those that choose to walk upon it. Like the Mannegishi of the region’s past, they maintain and revel in crypto-zoological connections—their music speaking to the semi-humanoid folklore that winds its heavy words around hearsay and account elusive as the Dover Demon. This is the tradition that Opex, Obey, and Fortress Crookedjaw—Wold—hang their hats on; with unidentifiable instrumentation and words imbedded in static white, they come.
They come telling of brimstone and smoke, of creeks and prairies, of stones, thorns, nettles, snow and ice; they speak of magic and invoke Odin; they talk of Dasein, anxiety, and will. The Screech Owl permeates nearly every song. It spreads its wings; it reigns; it nests. Guitar and keys and voice combine in untraditional ways to make what is, in a sense, traditional music.
Man has long since lost the connection to the primeval world. Ephemeral desires replace the hunt, the ritual. Wold erect a Winter Lodge out of this behavior, banished by convenience, left like tusk-less boar to bleed out in the field. From pounding, overdriven guitar to vocals as hot-wired power tools, these songs work to betray their source material, ultimately serving as manipulated field recordings. When device fails to shake its mask, there’s only imagination. The mind turns percussive strings into evergreen branches torn from their trunks, others hum and buzz and throb like waning insects, their wings and antennae slowed by sap. Keys bleat and thump, a buck’s heart cut from his chest and bright with deep red gore. The title track opens with yawning guitar, cold breath in tight clouds that melt away. Fortress Crookedjaw’s voice is the river and the sky; below and above, in motion and static by nature, it creeps free of river rock, rushes over tonal stones, breaks over banks and falls into great white din.
As much indebted to early Sightings as it is Cree Indian Conservationist proverb, Wold distorts the Black Metal paradigm into a perversely plastic idiom. Their disregard for fundamentals has empowered their sound, and like the seasons that conditioned its release, this is a work in flux. The unfinished quality that pervades the sound, the music, is not for lack of polish or resource. Intentionally left undone, the listener’s only recourse is to configure the loose matter into something figurative.
Of Saskatchewan’s 250,650 square miles, over 8,000 are water. Parries are home to intense cold, few trees, resources of potash, wheat, and oil. Those that call the prairie home are in tune with the earth and things beyond the sky as crusty black rock continues to travel from behind the stars to rest with wheat bales rolled into wagon wheels on open plain. Screech Owl makes this connection palpable and warns of the Yo-ne-gis’ greed. Eyes of Fire’s prophecy is being fulfilled; Wold are here as keepers of legend, ritual, and myth. The Way of the Great Spirit is sown. Take heed.