Retro-Review: December Wolves – Completely Dehumanized

Release Year: 1998
Label: Wicked World/Earache Records

December Wolves Completely Dehumanized1996. Yours truly graduated high school and landed a job at what would end up being GameStop. At the Electronics Boutique I was working at (Rockingham Park, Salem, New Hampshire), I would sometimes be visited by a lanky, long-haired dude wearing various different black metal shirts. One shirt was of a band called December Wolves, and I told him that was an interesting name for a band. He smiled and said, “Thanks, man. I’m the bass player. Check us out sometime.” Yep, that’s my story of how I met Brian Izzi (now best known as the guitarist for crusty grinders Trap Them) and got wind of December Wolves. I ordered their debut album, ‘Til Ten Years, and found it to be very folk-laden, quite long in the tooth, and somewhat fluffy, but it had some major promise. Apparently, Earache Records saw promise in them too, and signed them to their subsidiary, Wicked World. I lost touch with Brian (due to me quitting my job a month later), but was excited to hear that they had signed to a major underground label, and was curious as to how its follow-up, Completely Dehumanized, would stack up against the debut just two years later.

At that point, December Wolves could have gotten away with renaming themselves, because comparing the two albums is like comparing apples to… well, armageddon. Gone are the flutes, the female vocals, the fluff and the long songs, and in their place is sheer, unadulterated destruction. Izzi took up both guitar and bass duties, as well writing the album entirely by himself, save for lyrics shared between him and vocalist Devon “Smails.” After a short sample, you hear “Take this as a warning…” and holy mother of GAWD, you best heed. The title track is just blasting fury, cold-yet-catchy riffs, bass that carves through the mire, and Devon’s acidic vocals spitting venom at everything and everyone. Picture Rebel Extravaganza-era Satyricon getting into a car accident with Voivod en-route to an At The Gates concert, and you wouldn’t be too far off. It’s just seething and vicious from beginning to end, with hooks bombarding you left and right.

Speaking of which, Completely Dehumanized is chock full of memorable moments. “We Are Everywhere” starts off with a simple guitar and bass line before ramping up in both intensity and speed. Closer “To Kill Without Emotion” is a rousing way to close the album, featuring a very anthemic chorus. Hands down the best track on here, though, is “Friday the 13th,” with some absolutely vicious riffs between Izzi and fellow guitarist Tim Van Dono, laying satisfying waste to the listener every time it’s played.

December Wolves BandOne of the noticeable things about Completely Dehumanized is the production. It’s icy, cold, and mechanical, but the bass is right up front. Izzi, being a bassist originally, did a good job bringing attention to his basslines, as it revealed that he’s no slouch on guitar or bass. The drums are a bit off-sounding, especially the cymbals, but still gets the job done. One thing to mention is the variety of moods on here. Meaning: there is none. Those seeking anything remotely resembling an ounce of respite or peace should go elsewhere. However, those who want some of the most vicious black metal to come out of the 90s should look no further.

December Wolves had a hell of a time trying to capitalize on the power of Completely Dehumanized. I remember reading an interview in Metal Maniacs that their drummer, Scott, played to such a capacity that he more-or-less physically exhausted himself out of the band, and thus they couldn’t find a suitable replacement for live shows. One more album, 2002’s Blasterpiece Theatre, was released before all activity ceased within the band. One thing to note, however, is despite the fact that Brian is plying his trade with Trap Them, their Encyclopaedia Metallum page shows their activity status as “Unknown,” therefore I sincerely hope that one of New Hampshire’s best-kept secrets have at least one more album up their sleeves. If not, Completely Dehumanized is one hell of an album to remember them by.

« »