387357I have a soft spot for Canadian black metal, so when the opportunity came along to review A Portrait painted by the Sun by Finnr’s Cane, I fucking leapt at the chance. A Portrait is the second album from the atmospheric black metal band, and is due for release in November, through German label Prophecy Productions. The album artwork is by Benjamin König, an artist for whom my respect knows no bounds. It’s an absolute stunner, and I can – like I imagine a lot of people will be able to – actually relate to it. I’ve seen the sun sink under a green canopy and reach down, down, to exposed roots, stretched like fingers above a forest floor. As Finnr’s Cane draw inspiration primarily from the natural world, it’s a perfect fit.

The first track This Is Oak begins with the most beautiful acoustic passage, and the mournful, sound of wind through trees. There is a sure atmosphere established mere moments in. Then the drums and guitar move in, maintaining the slow tempo, but upping the atmosphere until the track sounds really quite epic. There is still an element of wildness about it. It doesn’t feel tamed. The vocals in this track remind me of not one, but two vocalists; John Haughm from Agalloch and Jonus Renske of Katatonia.

Gallery of Sun and Stars has a significantly heavier intro, thick with raw distortion. The vocals are harsh as fuck one moment, then slip back to being clean the next, but they’re under the radar, and it’s hard to actually make them out. This track has an intense, black metal vibe. It’s multi-layered, constantly challenging your expectations. It slows down considerably by the mid-way point, and adopts a sound that’s really quite surreal. How they’ve managed to slip from one atmosphere to another is really extraordinary. It feels like we’re moving from season to season. The harsh vocals return, and are like a shock to the system. They bring back this deep, dark energy.

The third track A Promise in Bare Branches is another song with epic elements and quieter moments, both of which ignite your senses. At times, this track does remind me of the atmosphere’s conjured by the legendary Wolves in the Throne Room. I find myself falling in love with the soft interludes. Then, when things start to get heavy again, it’s like being wrapping in a mantel dark as pitch.

Wind in the Wells has an acoustic beginning, though this time there is something of a threatening feel to it. As the track develops, it becomes louder, though keeps you on your toes, with regular chops and changes. You feel as though a storm is gathering.

A Great Storm has a heavy, intimidating start. It builds up steadily, gathering more of an atmosphere, and leading you off on multiple different pathways. It’s full of variety, but it isn’t quite as strong as the previous tracks.

Time is a face in the Sky has a clean, beautifully produced intro, which before long morphs into something significantly heavier, though maintaining that same, clean atmosphere. It starts to sound almost ritualistic with the ‘barely there’ vocals. One thing I do admire about this band is that they never stall. They’re constantly on the move, like sea ice. You never feel as if you’re in a race though. The vocals again have an aura of Agalloch about them.

The final track Tao has a post-rock vibe to it, and there are numerous neo-folk elements used throughout. But this is the track where they utilize their influences to the best of their ability. The atmospheres conjured have moments of ferocity and fragility. This track ties the end knot of the album together tightly.

A Portrait painted by the Sun was an enlightening journey from start to finish. The diverse textures and layers of this album are highly praiseworthy, and it’s something I will most definitely return to.  [8.5]