It has been said Ė perhaps merely by promotional companies or perhaps elevated to the level of conventional wisdom Ė that Windís Poem is Phil Elverumís Black Metal album, whatever that means. The genre has found much more acceptance as of late due to the zeitgeist or the music media running out of sub-cultures to vulture, and unassuming musicians like Elverum and The Mountain Goatsí John Darnielle are indie rockís go-to advocates. And while the murderers and anti-Semites take up the limelight, the genre is dense enough and diverse enough to encompass many styles; thus, puerile and ironic value arenít all Black Metal holds, though the worst excesses are taken to be paradigmatic of the entire fold.
If this is Elverumís Black Metal album, however, itís only because he was already making music which touched the avant-edge of it. Often slow, methodical, dramatic Ė even melodramatic at times Ė Mount Eerie has been mostly a project dedicated to lugubriousness, which one might suppose, necessitated the name change, leaving the more overt pop of The Microphones behind. Xasthur has been mentioned as one of the main influences for Windís Poem, and itís interesting to note the extreme confluence that already exists between Elverum and Scott Conner. They both make viscous and massive music that attempts in some way to approximate the Romantic fascination with an unknowable and unfathomable Nature. In this instance, the inscrutable is death, a topic thatís handled with fists of ham in most cases and is more often an embarrassing piece of juvenilia that sits at the core of Black Metal. Connerís theatrics and mournful song titles certainly donít help dispel that stereotype, but Elverum is only thematically influenced by this overwrought gloom.
Whatís interesting, listening to Windís Poem and Xasthur together is the question of exactly what it means to be influenced by another artist. Everyoneís standard notion is that sounding like or, perhaps when one is young, borrowing heavily from another artist, means one is influenced by them. It is a forced, unsubtle kind of influence that often produces mediocre art, which we see quite often. Musicians get really into some artists and then make conscious decisions to skew their music toward those artists. These are Dr. Moreau albums; shaky quasi-things that are cobbled together inorganically.
Listening to Windís Poem though, one can begin to see what true influence means. Itís about ingesting an artist and having that artist live within you: metaphorical voodoo. When Elverum says he was influenced by Xasthur, it doesnít mean that he listened to Connerís music and then said, ďI want to go there.Ē Rather, the attraction that already existed between Xasthurís music and Mount Eerieís exerted a strong enough force on Elverum that it became incorporated into him.