Anyone familiar with the old TV show “The A-Team” (not the idiotic abomination of a movie) knows that Hannibal Smith commonly would snarl, “I love it when a plan comes together,” right when the good guys gained the upper hand for good. I thought that exact same thing the very first time I heard the new record from black metal maulers Wolvhammer.
It is clear right away from the band’s third record “Clawing Into Black Sun” that the band is at its strongest level to date. Sure, you should expect that from a band as they progress and log more time playing together, but that doesn’t always happen. But with Wolvhammer, they’re firing on all hellacious cylinders on this great record, their most cohesive, channeled record to date. It’s one that should wholly satisfy those who have been on the band’s torrid bandwagon ever since the release of their 2010 debut “Black Marketeers of World War III” and who followed the into 2011’s impressive “The Obsidian Plains.” But this album also is their most approachable to date, so for those who are getting sick and tired of the polished, mainstream-minded black metal out there, this record could be a perfect gateway into the savage underground.
The Minnesota-based band is comprised of vocalist Adam Clemans, whose lofty resume also includes dark rock band Liar in Wait and Shaidar Logoth; guitarists Jeff Wilson (also of Liar in Wait and other heavy crushers including Chrome Waves, Doomsday, and Abigail Williams) and Brendan Seven (who joined the fold last year); bassist Joe Noel (ex-Samothrace); and drummer Heath Rave (ex-Across Tundras). The group never has sounded this tight, and it’s clear their songwriting skills have grown in leaps and bounds. And it’s not like these guys ever were slouches. There is plenty of black metal fury but also undeniable melody that should pull you in, post-rock darkness, and grime, and they mix all of those sounds excellently, making for their most consistent document in their catalog.
The record opens with eight-minute opus “The Silver Key,” a destructive, Lovecraftian storyteller that pushes listeners into the danger zone immediately. The vocals are creaky and grisly, the song’s path is ominous and dark, and the final minutes of the song really rip open and bring this tale to its violent end. “Lethe” is a mechanical storm of an interlude, sounding like black winds whipping, giving off the feeling that you’re free falling through the sky. “Death Division” is built with stabby riffs, rough vocals, and a punk-flavored assault that keeps on blistering you. Clemans howls, “I walk through hell alone!” as dark melodies envelop everything and pull it into the void. “Slaves to the Grime” might be the best song in their catalog, and if there’s one sure-fire way to bring new listeners into this record, this is it. There are grim melodies and menacing sentiments, such as when Clemans pokes about the “revocation of the so-called soul.” It’s a bleak song that’s devoid of hope, and it’s a smasher.
“The Desanctification” unfurls slowly, with chilling, buzzing guitars that instill a sense of fear. The vocals are throaty, with the melodies lathering you in electric violence, and Clemans’ shouts of, “No heaven above!” is another way to get under people’s skin with zero concern given over who he might hurt. “In Reverence” stomps along hard, and it’s one of the nastier cuts on this record. And that’s considering that every song on this thing is pretty abrasive. “A Light That Doesn’t Yield” also runs nearly nine minutes, and it has drizzling music that feels like a drenching rain storm on a cold day. There is a post-rock direction to much of this one, with growls emerging to add some ugliness, and gusty drafts that leave chills. Toward the end of the song, strings blend into the picture, and what sounds like a ton of lost voices swirl overhead, leaving you dizzy. The closing title track is a bone gnawer, with destructive riffs that know no mercy, some clean vocals that break up some of the violence, creaky growling in other spots, and a heavy, mean disposition. It’s a to-the-point song that gets in, does its damage, and gets out, with the band not giving a damn about scoring any style points.
Wolvhammer are primed and ready to do some serious damage with “Clawing Into Black Sun.” It’s an impressive, totally listenable, but still perfectly dark record that should find this band a larger audience. They’ve been building momentum over the past five years, and they’ve never sounded like a more dangerous machine. This should be remembered as one of the year’s breakthrough efforts, delivered by a band that’s been putting one bloody building block on top of the next.
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/Wolvhammer
To buy the album, go here: https://www.profoundlorerecords.com/products-page/
For more on the label, go here: http://www.profoundlorerecords.com/