Chances are if you’re a religious reader of this site, you’ve seen us talk about this album a lot recently, and with good reason. Ols have put out an album that is at the same time haunting, gorgeous, terrifying and totally engrossing with Widma, and even though we’ve already tackled this subject, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to grab this promo and throw my own thoughts in the ring. By all means, though, go listen to the album premier. You have no excuses! This is Rainbows in the Dark, featuring the best of all things non-metal and metal-adjacent.
If you’re not in the know already, Ols hails from Poland and is the product of Anna Maria Oskierko, who writes, sings and plays all the instruments on every track. Widma is Ols’ third album, and in keeping theme with the main focus of the band, the instruments, sounds and songs all feature a deep and spiritual connection with nature and the seasons. Widma in particular is a concept album about late autumn and its parallels with old age and the end of human life. According to Oskierko, “The songs throughout the album lead the listener through the stages of growing older and autumnal dying — from the first hoarfrost, the first gray hair, through to the arrival of November darkness, loneliness, madness, up to the coming of winter and death.” Most of the instrumentation is in the form of percussion and layered vocal lines and harmonies, all of which serve to transport the listener to a forest in mid-November, cold wind blowing through the branches and a hint of frost on the ground. Truly the instrument that affects the mood of the album the most is Oskierko’s voice, which ranges from beautiful melodicism to monotone chants to shrieks, growls, whispers and animalistic hissing, sometimes all in the same song. One of my favorite things about the album is the production, specifically how the different layers of the vocals seem to be coming at you from every direction at once, sometimes in harmony, sometimes just a little bit out of sync with each other in a way that breeds an unsettling mood, mimicking feelings of dread and madness. You feel wrapped up in all the layers in the gentle sections and completely unhinged during the darker parts, but what’s important is that it is always in service of the song. Every track on this album has a purpose and adds something to the story.
We premiered the video for “W ciemny las” a while ago, but it bears talking about again because I feel like this is one of the highlights of the album, because it really emphasizes how much Oskierko can do with her voice. It starts with noises that seems inhumanly layered under spoken word with an overdub ever so slightly out of sync, and transitions into melodies and drone notes coming from every angle, until the end when there is something that I can only describe as almost a rap break, which I absolutely love. With the hypnotic percussion, flutes and bass in the background, it could be a Polish trap song if you were only paying attention to that part of the song, and it works incredibly well. As much as vocals dominate the album, the instrumentation doesn’t always take a back seat. Deep, moody synths open “Drzewa dawno zmarły,” setting the spooky factor high right from the start. Gentle piano and fingerpicked acoustic guitar on “Ukojenie” provide some lightness and beauty to break up the overall somber tone, and the end of the song features a guitar solo that would be right at home on any black metal album. The different tones and moods that each song crafts are astounding, and as a cohesive album you really get engrossed from start to finish.
Ols has been compared to a wide variety of artists, from Alcest, Myrkur and Agalloch to Wardruna, Faun and Heilung. Are there similarities to all of them? Yes, but Ols is a lot more than just the sum of her contemporaries. There’s something otherworldly about these songs, something that makes me think they came from a place far beyond a simple recording studio. Do yourself a favor and listen to this album. Do yourself an even bigger favor and listen to this album with the best quality headphones you have. You might just get lost along the way.