In recent years, people have written books with the intent of dispelling various so-called “myths” about wolves. I haven’t read any of them, but they’re probably trying to tell us that wolves are actually warm, loving creatures who are good parents and self-sacrificng friends.
I haven’t read those books because I’d rather continue to think of wolves as vicious, red-eyed pack animals that would just as soon rip out your jugular as look at you. Life is too civilized as it is without having someone domesticate my mental image of the wolf.
Besides, that would detract from the awesomeness of Wolvhammer as a metal-band name. It would turn it into something like Puppyhammer. Or Puppyhummer. Or something equally tame. And Wolvhammer is anything but tame.
We first heard about Wolvhammer’s debut album, Black Marketeers of World War III, via a feature in the current issue of DECIBEL magazine, which punched many of our buttons — so much so that we ran out and bought the album fast. And we are so glad we did. (more after the jump, including a mixtape of music inspired by Wolvhammer . . .)
Black Marketeers is a dark-roasted brew of stripped-down black metal, mid-tempo punk rock, death ‘n roll, and grinding stoner sludge. It’s raw and feral, and very much like its namesake — the predatory wolf in all its aspects.
More often that not on this site, we write about rip-roaring, cathartic music that rattles your cage fast enough to unmoor your mind. That’s not what Wolvhammer is about. But it’s no less gripping, and no less capable of plugging into the primitive coil that heats the predator within you.
The wolfpack slinks through a dark forest, stalking its prey, their red eyes gleaming like coals — and Wolvhammer sets the mood with slow, post-metal crunches, down-tuned and massively pounding.
The prey senses its peril and begins to run — and the pack begins to lope ahead, faster and faster — and Wolvhammer segues from those slow, ominous intros into faster-paced, tremolo-picked chords, rapid-fire drumming, and high-pitched shrieking.
The prey pauses, knowing it will not outrun the pack, and wondering what it can possibly do to evade the onslaught — and the pack slows with it, as Wolvhammer glides back down to a slow rhythm, with death ‘n roll chords and methodical, head-snapping drums.
The prey makes one last, frenzied attempt to find freedom — and Wolvhammer’s pack charges again as the band shifts back to black-metal picking and machine-gun drumming.
But in fact, there is no hope, and the music yields none either. There is rending and tearing and unleashed mayhem at the end — and we do mean the end, of the last, longest song on the album, “Monolith”, when a cacophony of feedback, berserker chords, throbbing pulses, and all manner of other dark, distorted, frying electric noise erupts and then fades out of existence.
Many of the songs on the album are organized around infectious, recurring punk riffs — riffs that connect the shifts in rhythm and musical style. But that raw punk sensibility doesn’t change the dominant motif — which is one of menace and doom, the loss of the race, the ending of existence.
Wolvhammer’s particular blend of styles vividly puts us in mind of Darkthrone, just as it did DECIBEL‘s reviewer — a similar combination of nasty, slow, down-tuned menace, raw punk chords and rock rhythms, and black-metal influence in the vocals and tremolo-picked leads.
We’re reminded of other bands as well — bands like early Entombed and more recent juggernauts like The Helm and Gaza.
Wolvhammer certainly stands on their own, regardless of influences. We’re just sayin’ they put us in a certain frame of mind — and this music is more about mood than anything else. So we thought we’d share with you the path of musical progression that we followed after Wolvhammer set us on our way. Hope you like it as much as we did.
Darkthrone: Sacrificing To the God of Doubt
Wolvhammer’s debut album is available at iTunes, Amazon, and elsewhere, and the band is still making its two EPs available for free download at their blog (here).
I never really got into Darkthrone, but I think I’d have to agree about the Entombed comparison.
They were a gateway band for me that helped lead me towards some of the heavier stuff in high school, aided by classmates that had some of the stuff I hadn’t heard yet (and I had some they didn’t), plus the college radio station played a lot of metal that wasn’t on MTV (who still played music and were metal friendly at the time) or the commercial radio stations.
I think it’s time to see if I can find my copy of Wolverine Blues. I’m pretty sure I still have it on tape… somewhere. If not, it’s worth it to me to get again, digitally or otherwise.
As for Wolvhammer, I think I’ll at least grab their EP’s and see if I like what I hear and go from there.
I just listened to most of Wolverine Blues again yesterday, and it’s really amazing. I caught up to that album and Left Hand Path well after they were first released. They must have been particularly stunning to hear when they were fresh and so different from most metal that surrounded them.
Fuck yeah! So was Carcass, another of the early heavier bands to me, back when the heaviest thing I had was Sepultura (I had bought Beneath The Remains and Arise without having heard one note and I never regretted that impulse purchase). It was different, it was heavy and though it took a bit to get used to the vocals – just as it still does to this day with many bands – it was awesome and I wanted more.
Over the next few years, I became aware bands like Pestilence, Napalm Death, Edge Of Sanity and Cradle Of Filth, among countless others whose names I’d scribble down whenever the DJ would say who he’s just played. Good times, awesome metal that only myself and a few friends were into, but I never saw it as an excuse to look down on the hair metal and thrash that others were still listening to instead (partly because I still listened to it too), but there was some music snobbery around too that thankfully didn’t rub off on me.
Carcass remains awesome to this day. I came to this whole scene relatively late, and it’s been fun going back and figuring out what I missed. It’s amazing how good lots of those albums still sound — lots better than many current releases.