All This I Do For Glory, the fifth album Colin Stetson has released under his own name, is something of a reset for the one-of-a-kind performer. This is the first entirely solo album since the first volume of his New History of Warfare trilogy; you won’t find any guest voices like Laurie Anderson or Justin Vernon on this one – nor does he bring on board a partner like on 2015’s Never Were The Way She Was collaborative album with violinist Sarah Neufeld. And, in listening to All This I Do For Glory, something that we probably already knew becomes all the more obvious: Colin Stetson doesn’t really need anyone else to play with him to make a full, dense and intricate sound.

Throughout the New History of Warfare trilogy, there was a thick and murky atmosphere that evoked the horrors of war; it stuck to the guest vocalists that waded into the sound, and even when the songs were relatively airy, the echoes of fear and horror still swirled in the air. This new album is just as full of atmosphere, but is not so oppressing, but rather more in awe of nature and the ferocity that can be found outside of the human world. Throughout All This I Do For Glory, Stetson evokes wild and unpopulated landscapes, through which he traverses with long and heavy strides, fearless of the dangers that populate these regions, and he drags us with him.

The album opens with the title track, ‘All This I Do For Glory’, and it’s almost like Stetson roving into view over a far-away horizon, but visible as a giant on a sun-drenched plain. The bass notes of his saxophone scronk contentedly in time with his percussive key thumping, describing this heavy gait, like an enormous creature staggering out of hibernation, but feeling refreshed – the jazzy underpinnings giving the song just enough of a sway so as not to send the song toppling.

This relatively serene and contented mood is ripped apart as we move further into the album. ‘Like Wolves On The Fold’ sounds exactly like its title; through bubbly keys he lulls us onto a sunny path up a slight incline. When his forlorn voice starts calling out through his saxophone, we realise Stetson has guided us up a rocky terrain to where the wind whips so fiercely and the sky seems perennially grey; the only sign of life about are thin scraggly wolves hunting for any scraps. The deeper into the song we seem to get, the higher we’re climbing; Stetson’s quietly clicking keys telling us of even tougher topography, while the strained voice could be just the wind in our ears, or could be one of the wolves signalling to its pack that there’s a lost wanderer in their midst that looks like dinner. By the time Stetson’s keys are clomping like an actual percussionist, and the wolves are howling in unison, bearing down on you, you know it’s time to turn tail and run, with Stetson’s clamouring amalgamation of noise nipping at your behind all the way to relative safety.

Although you may have escaped the wolves, the panicked flight has left you disoriented, and Stetson, as both god and guide, is happy to let you wander through his grand countryside to try and figure it out. ‘Between Water and Wind’ is not so immediately cutting as the previous track, but the undercurrent of bass notes tells of a current against which there is no fighting; dip a toe into this stream and you will be sucked in. All This I Do For Glory is arguably Stetson’s most percussionistic album to date, and it’s on this middle section where we feel it the most, the clopping keys falling all around your ears, like a cavalcade of stones falling from the top of a cliff, high above. Stetson’s voice reaches his most strained on ‘Between Water and Wind’, and considering this album is the first half of a doomed love story in the model of a Greek tragedy, it seems like this is a lost lover calling out for aid from a faraway place – or is it just the cold and wind playing with your weary mind?

There is a slight reprieve on ‘Spindrift’. It’s all fluttering and cycling bright sax notes creating the kind of serene, euphoric fanfare that you dream about hearing in your head when you finally reach the person or place that you’ve long searched for. In your mind’s eye golden sunlight dapples the perfect scene, and you sink to your knees as you realise you can now, finally, rest. But this isn’t the happy ending of a love story, this is the wilderness of Colin Stetson’s All This I Do For Glory, and after 6 minutes of reverie you realise you haven’t completed your quest at all; you’re drowning, you’ve been sucked under by the current, oxygen isn’t reaching your brain, you need to fight your way to the surface, to reality. The two minute, biting ‘In The Clinches’ brings you quickly back into this harsh reality with its scorching howls and its crawling, stinging combinations of clicking, squealing and rumbling sounds. You’ve woken up from your dream to find yourself covered in a swarm of some heretofore undiscovered blood-sucking bugs.

Quickly rising and shaking them all off, you run headlong into the album’s final track, the 13-minute ‘The Lure Of The Mine’. At this point you realise that this land is watched over by a malevolent creature who will put you through your paces any which way he chooses, so you follow the long, whistling and whining sax sound that opens the track wherever it leads, even if it’s probably certain death. Following it down the mine of its title is much like going down the rabbit hole; Stetson seems to be telling the listener that the deepest, murkiest and most thrilling adventure is down here, just follow him – as if you have a choice. The last 10 minutes of the album are a hallucinogenic and engulfing descent into the darkness of Stetson’s underworld. Whirlpools of notes wrap themselves to your limbs, and the cluttering percussion pushes your head further and further down with the rest. From below comes the forlorn murmur of Stetson’s voice, periodically lifting into an excited yowl, as if he can sense you getting pulled ever nearer to his gaping maw. Once down at the bottom of the mine, the noise recedes slightly, and you’re face to face with Stetson, singing in his most alarmingly sweet tones, and despite the cold, inhospitable surroundings, you feel at home. This is where you were meant to be. This is where the long journey was always supposed to lead. Then, all the earthly sounds start pressing back down on your head; the percussion landing like striking blows on your scalp, while the saxophone becomes warped into a terrifying cackle, and you realise this might not be the serenity you had been tricked into believing you’d found after all. But there is no escape from this deep down.

All This I Do For Glory is Stetson putting us right back into his own world, with no distractions and no other gods fighting for control. To get through this album you have to devote yourself entirely to Stetson’s vision and path to enjoy it, otherwise you’ll find yourself easily blown off the map and completely lost. For those who are willing and eager to succumb to Stetson’s idiosyncratic sound, pressing play on this album is like stepping into his wilderness, and if you’re prepared to be battered by typhoon-like playing and virtuosic arrangements of sound, then you’ll come out the other side thrilled and refreshed.