Review Summary: Cracking skulls with Wolvhammer
The wallpaper is peeling, the taps are dripping and those solitary drops echo throughout the barren rooms. The charred walls resemble lifelessness and the once varnished wooden floor has etches of memories; someone lived here before, but not now, only emptiness calls this place home. Look out the window and what do you see? Mirror images of where you stand. In the distance, all you can see is downtrodden homes, broken windows, damaged widows; lives caged within. The sky is coated in darkness but the stars are visible, rays of light breaking through the layering of constant pitch-blackness. You feel isolated, you feel lost and the only thing you can think of over and over in your head is “Welcome to The Obsidian Plains”.
Wolvhammer’s sophomore effort, The Obsidian Plains, paints a picture that is bleak and hopeless; their palette knows no colour; their music accentuates the colder side of emotion, the spectrum long deprived of hope. Wolvhammer are a Black Metal band first and foremost, however their music is laced with sludge driven claustrophobic guitar playing to more boisterous, occult-toned rock. Swirling riffs and tremolo picking dominates an album that puts musicianship first, Wolvhammer demonstrate pride and the ability to write songs with strong musical constructs. The guitar-work is murky at the best of times and down-right flamboyant as the music peaks. The drumming is actually given the centre stage throughout the record, with furious blast-beats and rhythmic usage of the double-bass; there is even a moment where the double-bass has an entire piece to itself. The drummer utilises the drums to help the guitars switch up momentum and leads the guitarists into the next mind-bending genre infusion. Whether it’s the rock n’ roll 1-2, 1-2 to slower, sludgy drum-stick rhythms. Vocally, Wolvhammer offer a stellar performance, high shrieks and lower, more deep growls fluctuate throughout the album. However, there isn't too much variation. The vocalist switches things up at key moments, adding more flesh to the bones; which really pushes songs forward. Whether it be vocal layering or hissing like spoken word passages (which are very rare), the performance is well-controlled and spread evenly. The Obsidian Plains is littered with catchy song-writing, each song offers a catchy verse or memorable chorus; instrumentally or vocally. The instruments and vocals are symbiotic, creating a visceral yet highly enjoyable experience. The components of The Obsidian Plains provide an enjoyable experience and while the mood-lifting splashes of rock n’ roll highlight this; Wolvhammer still manages to create a gritty atmosphere. There is a sense of urgency, a prominent feeling of realism.
On the negative side, Wolvhammer set the pace early on and never seem to break that pace, the music is a constant foray of musical bombardment with slower, melodic moments yet these seem more like an after-thought; to break up the potential monotony. Furthermore, the band never pushes past the level of quality they’ve set; they carry on at a steady level throughout but never really exceed that limit. Of course, a strong album can’t be scoffed at but it would have been interesting if they expanded even more and perhaps threw in a few curve-balls. The Obsidian Plains does have the common case of the ‘similarity’ bug.
Wolvhammer are a band that simply put the teeth to the curb and do business with ‘no holds barred’. Musically, they have created an album that shows they’re confident at their craft; they’re not afraid of pushing the boundaries to a certain extent. Overall, it’s a gritty, chaotic yet stylistic experience; The Obsidian Plains is an unfiltered musical portrayal of life and because of that it succeeds.