PICK OF THE WEEK: Wolvhammer’s murky black metal slices veins on ‘Monuments of Bone and Ash’

Photo by Margaret Lord

While trying to prepare for this summer’s Migration Fest in my lovely hometown of Pittsburgh, it made me realize just how much has taken place in metal in the past four years since my last sojourn to a previous incarnation of that event. Metal has come such a long way in that period, and the underground scene is about as active as you can imagine, as it feels like there are killer shows locally all the time.

Another callback to that summer of 2014, which feels like 100 years ago, is it was the last time we heard from Wolvhammer on the strength of their third full-length “Clawing Into Black Sun.” That long break caused a lot of things to grow up and around where Wolvhammer initially set their foundation, yet they sound vital and refreshed on their killer new album “The Monuments of Ash and Bone,” their first release for Blood Music, a label that’s become a major force in those same past few years. The lineup has changed some, but their ferocity certainly hasn’t. Along with their blunt force black metal assault that remains as volatile as ever, the band also leans into different shades and tempos, and there are some truly different angles the guys take on these seven songs. It has the band—vocalist Adam Clemans (Skeletonwitch), guitarist/synth player Jeff Wilson (Abigail Williams), guitarist/bassist John Porada (Negative Mantra), bassist Andrew Garrity, and drummer Garry Naples (Novembers Doom)—spouting deadly new blood and keeps their teeth as sharp as they’ve ever been.

“Eternal Rotting Misery” starts in a synth haze before the ground erupts, and Clemans’ devastating growls make their way to the front. Fiery chugging and a punishing pace set the song into gear, while searing black metal melodies melt the surface. The track picks up an even faster clip toward the end, with the song coming to a swirling, nasty finish. “Call Me Death” demolishes right away, with growls bubbling under the surface, and the riffs bringing ominous tones. The soloing is volcanic, and Clemans’ dark singing enters the fray, adding different textures to this mauler. Things remain murky, as the song heads out on a cosmic synth cloud. “Law of the Rope” is a monster, as tar-thick riffs and nasty growls pummel, and a brief halt in the action paves the way for a series of piledrivers. The band hits a thrashy groove while the soloing bursts, and the song decimates your mind and soul.

“Bathed in Moonblood and Wolflight” is charging and dizzying out of the gates, with an animalistic pace that brings danger, and the screams scraping at the earth. Burly basslines pop in and bruise eyeballs, while the riffs cut through the muscle and stomp in your guts. “The Failure King” is one of the catchier songs on here, with muddy riffs adding grit. “I have become the failure king!” Clemans howls, as the band hammers away, and the guitars enter tornado alley. All the madness gets sucked up into the starts, and that leads into “Dead Rat Rotting Raven” that begins with a hovering noise storm. The track kicks in and feels punk driven and full of attitude, as Clemans wails, “Fuck your insignificant life!” The riffs speed up from there and blast toward the abrupt finish. Closer “Solar Eclipsed” is the biggest curveball, as it’s a slower-paced 8:22-long wanderer that’s one of the most interesting things in their catalog. Again, Clemans sings, digging deep into his guts, while he’s surrounded by shadowy playing, foreboding keys, and the feeling that all is being washed away by black waters. Power does charge here and there, as growls and driving guitars incite violence, but all of it ends in a splash of synth and strings, letting you down on a somber note.

The metal world might be a more heavily populated, diverse world since Wolvhammer last stalked listeners, but “The Monuments of Bone and Ash” is this quintet firing back and reminding they remain a force with which to contend. The songs hit hard, expose you to morbid darkness, and even leave you swimming in dank, gothy waters. Now that these guys are reanimated, their reign of power is bound to leave trails of blood wherever they go.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/Wolvhammer

To buy the album (U.S./Canada), go here: https://www.blood-music.com/store-us/

Or here (rest of the world): https://www.blood-music.com/store-eu/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.blood-music.com/

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