Review: Wasteland – Mora (Ancient Entity, May 26)

a3570084920_10Besides the initial serendipity of their sharing a name with one of the greatest unsung hardcore punk bands of all time, Croatian quintet Wasteland first caught my undivided attention with the bestial power of vocalist Morgoth’s screams, which combine the hoarse, raked-across-a-razor rasping of old with a fresh fervor as clear as a mountain spring, often double-tracked and layered in a way that makes them resonate even more. Mora, from both an instrumental and lyrical standpoint, is uncompromisingly pagan, not in the neologized sense of simply incorporating folk flavors and an appreciation for the natural world, but rather the original definition, which from a Slavic perspective harkens back to pre-Christianization when the spread of western religion led many European groups, notably the Narentines in southern Croatia, to become even more obstinate and zealous in their nature-centric and polytheistic belief systems. This historical atmosphere comes through most saliently in the words of the incendiary opening track “Ledene Duše,” an intensely apocalyptic and anti-Christian disaster story, and “Pokolj,” which embodies the fearful but ultimately courageous Nordic forces that fought off their evangelist invaders. Throughout these vivid evocations runs an unyielding current of superbly executed black metal bells and whistles, from percussion that seems to shift between programmed and live kit drums (or, perhaps, programmed and better-programmed) to memorable melodic guitar licks and well-placed In the Nightside Eclipse synths, all of which come together on magnificent closer “Zvijer II.” With all of the nauseating, fascist nationalistic ignorance so deeply embedded in this genre’s chronology and culture, it’s always immensely refreshing to find and enjoy something that understands what we should actually love about our “nations”: the awe-inspiring, terrible beauty of the land itself.