Jan 072013

(Wolves stick together. In this post, BadWolf reviews the brand new debut EP by Mourning Wolf.)

I’ve been hearing about Mourning Wolf since the band’s first practices. As a matter of fact, it’s about all that the project’s vocalist, Clint ‘Darkness’ Harkness, talked about for months. Readers may recognize Harkness as the lead singer of Lansing, Michigan’s The Devastator. He’s right to be excited about the project—the Elmhaven EP is rock-solid.

Mourning Wolf blends two disparate, but equally melodic strains of heavy music into a cohesive whole.   In the first place, their music owes a great deal of debt to the kind of melodic metalcore that Headbanger’s Ball peddled in the naughty aughts. For example, the first segment of “Elmhaven Part II” could pass as an unreleased demo by Darkest Hour, or early Killswitch Engage. Wisely, the band avoids the saccharine clean singing and sentimental lyrics, lest the music veer into self-parody. Mourning Wolf diverge from melodic metalcore in another critical arena: the first part of Elmhaven clocks in at almost eight minutes, and its successor breaks the eleven minute mark.

The second ingredient in Mourning Wolf’s music is longform ambient black metal, the kind of music Wolves in the Throne Room and Alcest play. If Mourning Wolf were from California or Washington, someone would have called them Cascadian by now.

I’m enamored of this unlikely union’s fruit. Both elements balance one another perfectly. The more driving hardcore elements give both Elmhaven songs a necessary bit of structure, and make the music a bit more driving and aggressive than Cascadian black metal tends to be—see the opening of “Elmhaven Part I,” which segues from big drum hits into a melodic blast-run. On the other hand, the ambient  sides blend both songs into one cohesive texture.

I had the chance to talk to Harkness, briefly, about Mourning Wolf and his transition from brutal death metal to this kind of music. “Elmhaven is something everyone of us has wanted to do for quite sometime. It’s more than just a piece of music, it’s a reflection of us as people. We really wanted to make music than you can feel. We’ve all done the super heavy music before, you just don’t feel the emotion and realism that you can with Elmhaven,” he said. “I am very passionate about Mourning Wolf. I have never felt so at home with any other band I’ve been in.”

By my estimation, Harkness is right to be excited. Mourning Wolf blends two commercially viable, yet completely disparate styles into a single, functional whole. I’m anxious to hear more from the project.

Elmhaven is available as a pay-what-you-want download through Bandcamp, and is embedded below. It comes highly recommended, from one wolf to another.


  15 Responses to “MOURNING WOLF: “ELMHAVEN””

  1. Fantastic stuff, cheers for passing that on!

  2. Possibly dumb question: Is “Cascadian black metal” one of those labels that gest slapped on bands that happen to be from the Pacific Northwest, or is it a semi-legit subgenre? I’ve seen it popping up a lot, probably because I’ve recently gotten into some bands that have been tagged that, and although I definitely hear some musical similarities, I don’t know if I’m hearing anything that would make me not just call them atmospheric or ambient black metal.

    • I’ll throw in my two cents worth since I’m in the Pacific Northwest. Although that “Cascadian black metal” label seems to have started as a way or characterizing the nature-focused atmospheric black metal of PNW bands such as Agalloch and Wolves In the Throne Room, it has come to be applied to other bands from other regions (and countries) whose music shares a similar stylistic approach. So, at least in some quarters, it has become a sub-genre term — though I think a lot of people would like to eradicate it because the label itself is more of a misleading geographic reference and conveys no information about the sound itself.

      • I’d hate to see the label disappear, since I tend to like nearly everything that has been labeled Cascadian BM. I’d have to fall back on my formula that if an album cover has any combination of trees/mountains/clouds/fog on it, I’ll probably end up liking it. T/M/C/F BM doesn’t have quite the same ring to it though.

  3. Nice find, I definitely enjoyed that!

  4. Digging the genre-melding going on here. Dare I say there’s some almost metalcore-ish riffs in here? It’s a fine line they draw between melo-death and metalcore (black metal influences aside), but I think it’s done really tastefully. In much the same way that early Abigail Williams brought together “-core” music and Emperor-esque symphonic black metal, I see Mourning Wolf bringing “-core” and Cascadian BM (for lack of a better term) together.

    Keep it up! Excited to hear more.

  5. This is excellent, thank you. Nice variation on existing atmospheric BM approaches. I want an album though! EP’s frustrate them, they’re too much of a tease… 🙁

  6. awesome EP!!!!!

  7. I am physically incapable of passing up metal music that mentions wolves.

  8. Check out my band Burn Your World from Salt Lake City, UT. http://www.burnyourworldofficial.bandcamp.com (shameless self-promotion, I know) We are somewhat similar in approach to this band Mourning Wolf, although it would seem that the influences are different; think Crowbar/Ringworm/Infest/Darkthrone/Dissection/Suffocation/Napalm Death/Himsa. Thanks for sharing this band, and I hope y’all enjoy our music from Mormontowne, USA!

  9. The description is spot on. A lot of darkest hour riffing to start off with, and then it veers off into alcest territory. Instant ownage!

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