(In this post our contributor Gonzo reviews two wolfish records which were released one week ago — and this dual review would have been published one week ago except for our editor (me) having been brutally distracted by his day job.)
I feel like the onslaught of high-quality albums we’re already seeing in 2021 is a promising sign. Either that or everyone’s going out of their fucking minds without shows, travel, and the requisite level of creative outlets. (Hopefully not for very much longer.) Whatever it is, it’s already March and this month is chock-full of music that sounds urgent as hell, commanding your attention when the rest of the world continues to unfurl from its unending corridor of suck.
Last week, though, we saw the release of new music from Wolf King and Wolfheart. If the old legends are true and there are in fact two wolves that live inside of us all, existing in a perpetual state of conflict over which one gets to wrest control of our collective psyche in some kind of moral struggle for the ages, then… I dunno, maybe they were just really into wolves? My metaphor game is leaving some serious shit to be desired today.
Fortunately, the music released by both wolves today is anything but lacking.
WOLF KING: THE PATH OF WRATH
California’s blackened hardcore unit Wolf King have unleashed The Path of Wrath, their third slab of sonic angst. If you’re already familiar with the gut-wrenching sound that populated their 2018 effort, Loyal to the Soil, let’s start with good news: That sound has been carefully fine-tuned and polished to create a more destructive and infectious album than its predecessor.
At just around the one-minute mark of “Messenger of Death,” you can hear the exact moment when Wolf King cracks a gleeful smile and starts absolutely kicking your ass with a monstrous circle-pit riff. As it turns out, it’s one of many that you’ll hear throughout the rest of the album. Vocalist Timothy Wilson sounds like he’s vomiting a demonic entity, but for as loud and ferocious as his vocal style is, the masterful mix of the record never cedes too much dominance to one individual. The songs are tightly packed and rarely wander off course, favoring a concise approach to their brutality that suits the band’s no-bullshit sound perfectly.
By the time you get to the title track, you’re still only halfway through The Path of Wrath as a whole. There are some elements that start to unfold here that sound like what you’d hear if Disfear and Harm’s Way collaborated on a D-beat/crust punk side project, but instead of favoring a stop/start, punch-you-in-the-face approach, Wolf King surprisingly allow “Incantation” to begin as if the title track never ended. I actually had to check which track I was on in the middle of all this.
Overall, this record will get your blood pumping to a boil when you hear it. Wolf King have upped their game and unleashed a record that’s as tough as a slab of granite in a deep freeze.
WOLFHEART: SKULL SOLDIERS
The second installment in our “wolf” doubleheader is new stuff from Wolfheart. (Fun fact: If you say the band’s name slowly, it sounds like you’re saying “wool fart.”) With last year’s Wolves of Karelia being slightly overlooked, the melodeath masters from Finland have returned to bring us another offering a year later. This EP might be short on length, but the two new songs it contains are solid additions to their impressive catalog.
The title track leads off, and if you’re a fan of this band – and by and large, anything in this subgenre that comes from Finland – you’ll know exactly what to expect from the moment you hit “play.” The dark, chugging riffs are of the same ilk as fellow countrymen Omnium Gatherum or Amorphis, with a generous dusting of keyboard-laden atmosphere. Follow-up track “Hereditary” follows the same formula, but it’s when you get to the acoustic version of “Aeon of Light,” a song originally found on 2015’s Shadow World, that this one gets memorable.
The track makes me feel like I’m sitting around a crackling campfire while drinking some moonshine in a forest. You know that feeling when you’re listening to the unplugged side of Panopticon? It’s the same story here – comforting, yet uneasy and wistful somehow. It’s a great addition to the EP. The final track is a live version of “Reaper” recorded during a virtual concert stream performance last year, and likely thrown in for good measure.
As far as EPs go, Skull Soldiers isn’t a must-hear, but it’s a serviceable fill-in while we wait for more blasts of melodic death metal from Finland.