When I got this disc last year via Jester Records I missed it. I don’t know why it got shuffled off to the side, or what happened exactly, but for some reason it just didn’t get done in time. In any case, I just recently got wind that they’re readying for the US release so I figured I’d break out the Internet-pen and have at a review of this super group’s (Line-up: bass and guitars: Teloch [1349, Gorgoroth, Ov Hell, Orcustus, Umoral, Konsortium]; bass and guitars (again): Blargh [Gravferd, DÃ¸dheimsgard]; vocals: Cpt. Estrella Grasa [Kort Prosess]; and drums: Hellhammer [Immortal, Shining, Thorns, Umoral, Mayhem, Winds, Arcturus]) stab at reclaiming Norwegian black metal glory.
Nidingr, for those who don’t know, have had one previous record which came out in 2005. It flew right under my radar, to be honest, and it seems to have flown under a lot of radars. I think, however, that Wolf Father may change some of that. A concept record which seems to encompass the whole span of Norse mythology in just six songs, this record has a pace and a feel to it that I haven’t heard from any band containing original members of old Norwegian bands since… well… at least the early 2000s. In fact, as part of their promotional text they point out that this is the only Garm-approved black metal to come out in an age. Take that as you will.
Wolf Father is undeniably cool, however. The riffs are traditional black metal riffs, you know, lots o’ trem picking, with the occasional mid-paced groovy riff thrown in for good measure. The drums are Hellhammer, so you know how they sound with triggered blasts and pretty fake drum sound, but I guess that goes with the territory. Honestly, the most uncommon aspect of this record is vocalist Estrella Grasa who doesn’t sound like a traditional black metal guy at all. His vocals are, first, quite understandable even though they’re screams, but I’d almost stick them into the hardcore vocalist territory if it wasn’t for the fact that he sounded so tortured at times.
Thematically there’s some interesting things going on here. From what I can make out from the lyrics the record starts with basically a ‘why am I here?’ (in “Fafnismol”) and ends with Fenriz devouring everything and Ragnarok (“Lokasenna”). It kinda leads to an interesting question about what the lyricist is getting at with these lyrics. What I think is interesting is the focus on Baldr, actually. It might just be that his vocals are most understanding in those sections, but the focus on the death of Baldr (“Baldrs Draumar”) struck me as odd because I thought it was fairly well-known that Baldr’s position among the pantheon seemed to have changed at some point. It’s believed by some scholars that I’ve read that Baldr took on the position of Jesus in an almost allegorical sense (dies and goes to Hel, comes back, The Shining God). Now granted, the death of Baldr is an important point in the sort of overarching mythology but there is sort of an irony of focus on that particular section on a black metal record.
In any case, the songwriting deserves its accolades because this is well-constructed black metal. It’s also well-played. There are some really fantastic riffs on here and some cool technical things that one rarely hears in black metal (though, the 1349/Gorgoroth connection is definitely obvious at times). Still Wolf Father is an ultimately very enjoyable record and a good modern addition to the Norwegian black metal legacy which could maybe use a bit of polishing.
A final note: the Garm cameo in the aforementioned “Baldrs Draumar” was quite cool to hear. Of course, his black metal vocals would actually be more appreciated by this Angry Metal Guy, but I guess one can’t ask for too much.