Impure Wilhelmina – Radiation Review

Band: Impure Wilhelmina
Album: Radiation
Label: Season of Mist
Genre: Alt Rock/Metal
Country: Switzerland
Release Date: 06 July, 2017

First off, I hate the name of the band. I’m sorry, it’s just tough to say and sounds too weird and reminds me of bands that I don’t like very much. I’m sure it means something important or whatever, but god, it irritates me. That said, you can’t judge a book by its cover, nor a band by its name (although if you want to judge “I Killed the Prom Queen” by their stupid name, go ahead; I sure did). And let me tell you, if you’re a stubborn old man like me, if you just looked at the name and wrote the band off, you’d be making a terrible mistake. They’re good, really good.

Second, this isn’t really metal. Oh, there’s touches here and there, and plenty of heavy riffs, and the album certainly rocks, but don’t go into this expecting Doom, as they have been described, or post-hardcore, a sound the band originally kind of started as. Clear your mind of any conceptions and let the music wash over you. Hell, we should all do this with any album by any band, to be honest. Leave your expectations at the door and just listen…

So I.W. has been around for a long, long time. Formed in 1996 by vocalist and guitarist Michael
Schindl and his brother David on drums, the band from Geneva were touted as local heroes, put on the same platform with bands such as Nostromo and Knut from the metallic hardcore
scene. And man, these guys have changed over the years, drifting about as far from metallic hardcore as you can get. When I say they’ve changed, they’ve certainly matured as songwriters, as their new album Radiation attests.

This album is filled with hooks and riffs and cascading guitars that shift and bite and caress nearly all at once. There’s deep melancholy here, and they definitely walk in the same realms as latter-day Katatonia and Tiamat, as well as Anathema, if you need some “metal” references. Joy Division would be a better comparison here, although there is enough of that good old hardcore and metal grit to distinguish them from that band. To be further honest, just on first listen, I think they’re better than Katatonia, a band I like but often find boring. Their songs run together for me and become samey after a while, even if I do enjoy them. I.W. fall into the same trap at times but I find they have more textures to their songs, more little things to discover on subsequent listens. And that’s how you have to approach this record. It’s a “grower,” in that it won’t bowl you over immediately, but it will get under your skin and sizzle until you find yourself humming some of the tunes and wanting to go back and listen to it again and again. This is an album to sit with.

Some highlights:

Second song “Sacred Fire” has got an irresistible opening hook and should be a hit, if there’s any justice in this world. The way that hook repeats itself just sinks the jagged point in deep and pretty soon you find yourself pulled along into a song that moves here and there, washing across the shore of your soul like high tide has arrived. You’ll find yourself drowning in the dreamy, drowsiness of this song, and you’ll be thrilled to let go and sink into its depths.

“Meaningless Memories” hits just after the halfway point of the record and man, this is a stunner. A long instrumental opening, languid and lovely, leads to a nice thudding riff about 1:40 in and into more melodious territory thereafter. This song brims with emotion, and that’s just the musical portion; wait until the singing kicks in. Really great, layered stuff here.

“Race With You” closes the album and is nice summation of what came before it. Like every song on this record, it reminds me of 80’s alternative rock, that Joy Division thing rearing its head here and everywhere. But it’s not an homage, or nostalgia gone wild, it’s taking that sound and running with it, making it your own. This song lifts and flies, bringing the record to a great finish, with more hopeful strains to give balance to the sadness that has come before.

Radiation is a mature album by a mature band that blazes with emotion; melancholy, fear, anger, desperation being just a few of the more prominent ones. The music and lyrics perfectly combine to create amazing songs full of texture, movements, melody, and crunch. My only criticism is that some of the songs run together after a while, sounding a bit the same. This would easily be fixed by cutting a couple of the tracks to release later as an EP (because, to be honest, I would have a hard time picking a song to cut as they’re all that good). Impure Wilhelmina is a band you should look into and get with, especially if you love bands like Katatonia and their ilk. Fans of Doom and Melancholia will find a lot to love here.

Rating: 8/10

1. Great Falls Beyond Death
2. Sacred Fire
3. Child
4. Torn
5. We Need a New Sun
6. Meaningless Memories
7. Bones and Heart
8. By Ravens and Flies
9. Murderers
10. Race With You

Total Playing Time: 56:31

One comment
  1. Dpg

    Sounds like a band I will have to check out. Would love to have been able to hear Sacred Fire based on the review but Torn is a really good song – I wonder how representative it is of the album overall.

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