Karl is a longtime freelancer who's passionate about music, art, and writing.
Wraithwalker’s Spellbound 2 is full of seething shadows, battering beats and terrified tension. It plays on Gothic horror and cosmic terror while still being melodic, expressive and occasionally even uplifting. It has a lush sonic palette and effectively evokes a broad range of emotions as it unfolds.
I feel that the strongest element of Spellbound 2 is the imagery and atmosphere that it generates through music. There’s tension thrumming through the high synths, cavernous darkness pouring from the bass and a feeling of urgency conveyed by the drums. When these parts combine with the evocative melodies, the end result creates a vivid picture in the mind’s eye.
The melody writing abilities that Wraithwalker demonstrates on Spellbound 2 are second to none. His melodies have clarity, richness and a tendency to balance out different sonic elements to create a well-rounded end result. I also feel that he is able to accurately convey emotion through melody to strengthen the auditory imagery.
A lush, detailed and varied musical palette also defines this album. The sounds include pipe organ, harpsichord and electric guitar but even extend to clarinet and violin synths. Wraithwalker blends them like a painter blends colour to produce a vivid sonic and emotive spectrum. He captures pain, fear and danger along with vague hope and deep sadness.
My Favourite Tracks Analyzed
“The Nightmare Begins” commences with a hollow synth sound, reminiscent of a bell as it rings out. The track already seethes with ominous sensations. A slow heartbeat moves with the minor key tones into cavernous space. Distant, shadowy piano trembles and echoes into the track and a sweep of cymbals moves as the piano pattern drifts out, matching the throbbing heartbeat. I enjoy the way that the piano carries an implicit threat as dark notes intertwine and a well of portentous sound swells underneath it. In the distance, the heart throbs and bells swirl out into silence.
A digital, dense synth pulse is joined by a rougher swell of sound that growls through to open “Kingdom of the Fallen.” The drums drive in a steady, huge-sounding pulse as the gritty, jagged edge of a repetitive synth pulse shifts.
Long lines of slicing sound cut in and now the strains of a pipe organ spin in whirling arpeggios that dance out over the snarling wall of sound below them. GhostHost’s writing is strong in this track, fitting into the overall mood while feeling distinct from Wraithwalker’s approach.
The steady, digital-sounding synth pulse moves and a harpsichord plays ornamented notes that move in quick lines. Blocks of dark synth chords climb and fall while the beat drives on and choral voices intermingle as danger-filled chords shift. The drums break while a surge of lost sound swirls into minor key arpeggios that wind through the track. Twisted guitar writhes and the arpeggios spin around. The bright guitar howls out high above the other musical elements, full of triumph before fading out.
“The Sepulchre” begins with worried, quickly moving notes that wriggle over a ticking clock, potent with the sensation of impending doom. A heavy, broken throb of deep synth grunts as its joined by a rushing drumbeat and an active, sharp-edged sound cuts in. A distant pattern of minor key notes feels like it’s been pulled taut while rapid glowing arpeggios swirl through the track.
I am drawn to the hollow, bell-like synth that is full of dangerous feelings as it moves above the steady drum pulse and bass oscillation. A slow, minor key melodic pattern twirls and harsh, heavy synth sinks through the track in a jagged line as the beat and bass move relentlessly. The tense synth chords keep growing tighter and all the glowing arpeggios turn before we fade into a creaking, nervous silence.
The whinnying of spectral horses is joined by hollow, ghostly sounds that drift out in a series of extended notes to open the track. A dense, heavy bass and drum throb shifts below the guttural chant of the Nazgul in slowly surging chords. Trickling sounds shift and trill over the tidal pulse of the beat and the bass. I am drawn to the intensely shadowed atmosphere that Wraithwalker generates in this track by combining horrifying whispering with the other musical elements.
Thunder peals and tremulous, medium-high synths shiver with fear into the music as the beat drives and the bass charges. A distant electric guitar cries out in a cascade of notes, howling out a melodic line that is intricate and worried over the howling of ghostly voices. Piano notes skip along over top, surprisingly light and delicate over the thunderstorm and the sound of the nine riders.
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“The Fool’s Lament” starts off with an off-kilter harpsichord playing a weaving waltz that jangles into the track’s open spaces. A hollow, pipe-like synth carries an ethereal, off kilter melodic line before the metallic harpsichord dances through in a classically influenced melody of its own and then out into silence.
I enjoy the short interlude and how it creates a counterpoint to the darkly seething atmosphere of the album. There is something in this track that is both beautiful and unsettling. It’s a lovely little interlude, an auditory break to refresh and prepare for the shadows to rise again.
Sparkling like sunlight on blue ice, “Heart of Ice” begins with an open, chiming arpeggio drifting over a smooth, desolate feeling synth. The drums’ solid drive and the heavy bass depth forms a flowing pulse of sound while the arpeggio shines coldly over it. Sharp-edged sounds sweep through and the jumping pulse of drums and oscillating bass propels the track forward.
The rhythm grows in power and surges darkly before fading as lost, elevated chimes move in the empty space around them. I enjoy how the fragile, cool sounds of the music create fitting mental imagery of ice and cold. A stuttering, metallic noise moves through the track and a hollow synth spins in a rapid arpeggio before sweeping out into empty space.
“Defiler’s Revenge” kicks off with a dark bass sound oscillating underneath distorted, twisting synths that have a float to them as the drums rush in and the bass oscillation moves in shadowy waves. The music grows in energy while a rising line of tense synth wriggles over the steady, rough-edged pulse of a deeper synth below it.
I am compelled by the urgency of the lead melody and how its dynamism is tinged with pain. An insistent pulse of medium-high synth jumps in time to the drums and a tremulous shiver of sound comes in with a static-y edge. The angular, leaping lead melody comes back in over bass grit and oscillation, propelling the track out into chimes and silence.
A soaring melody starts off “Two Minutes to Midnight (Thibault’s Theme).” Drums drive on and the melody flies upwards while the beat is rich with charging energy. I enjoy the feeling of light as the melody dances and soars, wheeling upwards in an uplifting, minor key pattern. There’s a drum fill and warm bells sing underneath the positive melodic line.
The track breaks into a half-time section before a battering drum surge leaps through and we return to slowly rising notes. A glitching, atonal shiver of sound moves into the music before a a growling electric guitar surges into the victorious melody as it calls out, a bell tolls and silence falls.
“The Mastermind” commences with a jagged, growling synth pulse that’s joined by rising, minor key chords and a constant vocal moaning. A slow moving wall of bass grunts below it and a rapid drumbeat launches the track with whispered horror. I enjoy the demonic threat of the voice as it chants into the music. The charging, oscillating bass wall supports a high, urgent arpeggio as it whirls.
Hollow, open synth leaps in a tripping, twisted line while the whispered lyrics add a great deal of ominous feeling to the track. A twirl of tense sound pulses in and a rushing, minor key line of synth jangles before the hollow synth rises and falls. Drums speed on while nervous sound falls behind the whispered vocals, so unsettling in the distance.
A steady thump of drums moves in to open “Misericorde Noire” while piano notes form a minor key pattern that has some major notes touching it to add warmth. I am pleasantly surprised by the jazz character of the melody and how this track contrasts shadow and shine. The piano pattern repeats and builds again, as the contrasting elements shift.
Drums urge the music on as the reedy, plaintive clarinet comes in, followed by a caressing violin. The main melody trips through on piano while a bowed bass sound supports it. A horn section now carries the melody with a bright flash from the brass. The piano becomes more urgent, moving in rising and falling lines, as darkness and brightness contrast again.
Spellbound 2 is a terrifying delight as it takes listeners on a writhing, shadow-filled sonic adventure into a fantastical, horror-steeped world that entertains and entices. I always listen out for Wraithwalker's next spooky delight.