Nearly everything about this release is impressive. The Travis Smith-designed packaging is beautiful, featuring images of sooty, ravaged foliage that gird us for the progressive metal contained on the disc within. Gwynbleidd’s music is impeccably performed and recorded, and full of powerful, natural tones. It appears to be almost entirely self-produced too, so respect to the band for dialling in such a great sound.
There’s an elephant in the room, however, and it has a giant, swirly “O” painted on its side. No matter how hard I try, I can’t see past it. The guitar harmonies, the regular cycling of loud and soft/electric and acoustic within the lengthy compositions, the vocalist’s surging death growls when a heavy part erupts—if Opeth can be said to have a template, Gwynbleidd follow it slavishly. Their songs do flow differently than Opeth’s, but this is down to the fact that all their riffs are in 12/8 time (barring the odd innovation, as heard on “Stormcalling”), which smoothes over the many transitions in loudness and tempo. This also makes it difficult to distinguish between songs. Many micro-sections grab me when they pop up, but I’m usually hard pressed to tell where I am when I’m listening to the album straight through.
Gwynbleidd have found an enjoyable starting point with Nostalgia, but they’re clearly a little too comfortable playing this style. Now comes the tough part—they need to take what they have and tear it down and mess it up and be brave about it, so that with the next Gwynbleidd album, we’ll go, “Oh, that’s what Gwynbleidd sounds like.” They certainly have the talent to make something beautiful and unique.