The Wolf Council is what I imagine those not yet inducted into metal hear when anything with distorted guitars, energetic drumming and heavy vocals is imposed on them. I can hear their whining now. “Why is the man shouting?… It’s too loud… It all sounds the same!” The optimists among you may deduce from this initial description that The Wolf Council‘s self-titled début is therefore a solid approximation of core metal characteristics. However, it is my responsibility to assert that I mean it simply is too loud and does all sound the same. Residing in Minnesota, this threesome pick, bang and shout their way through 43 minutes of what they call “Kick ass” (great work guys), which can be roughly approximated to particularly speedy stoner metal. It’s closer to inducing sleep than drawing on Sleep, more ‘kys‘ than Kyuss and an Electric Conjurer of Cheap Tricks above an Electric Wizard.
My most fundamental criticism of The Wolf Council is its unremittingly one-dimensional approach to dynamics. Initial interest and anticipation dissipated as I realized the first half of the album went by without extending my first thirty seconds of active listening. Aside from the momentary quiet between tracks you barely notice the songs change. Most of the riffs bleed into one another, and it’s rare that a lead guitar melody will noticeably change across individual songs. “Waves,” “Just One Push” and “Floor” are particular offenders for this, but the only real exception where I noted a song that progressed is “The Day I Cleared The Debt.” Though by no means a great track, it does at least have three distinct sections which gives your ears a rest and offers some variety. This is five tracks in, and the point at which I realized my attention had long since wandered off.
I wouldn’t want sharp-eyed readers to interpret this as inattentive listening and an uninformed opinion: I see it as my duty to try to use balanced judgement and listen for the positives as well as the negatives. There just really aren’t many strengths here and even where there are, it requires diligent listening to extricate them from the bland majority. I do have a couple of preferred moments, such as the rollicking drum fills on “Victims” and the solid lead riff on “All That Was Yours.” The opening to “No Reason” is solid too, sounding almost thrashy – the music is most notable when the percussion leads the way. But as a reviewer, I have to give an album time and be an active listener – as one of our canny readers looking for advice on how to invest your hard earned pennies, you owe new music nothing and don’t have to listen to anything which is any less than great. These moments can’t be described as outstanding since they require persistent effort to pick out and appreciate.
The quantifiable dynamics in the production are abysmal too. Though not the worst for range, the measly score of 5 crunches all the instruments into a small space, leaving them gasping for individual air and space. The struggle for a competitively loud album condemns the music to a soupy amalgamation of ill-defined instruments and background noise. Solos which could offer reprieve from the monotony don’t pop with energy above the surrounding music. There is some solid shredding at 3:20 of both “All That Was Yours” and “Loading The Guns,” but you really have to commit yourself to picking out these positive moments given their relative suppression. Even the vocals which would typically stand out from other instrumentation are oddly subdued and flattened by the master. A better production job wouldn’t have rescued The Wolf Council, but it would certainly make it an easier listen.
The Wolf Council is not a good début. The absence of dynamism across the album’s structure and writing makes it boring to listen to for any length of time, and the poor production crushes the decent instrumentation into an inescapable corner, contributing to an ineffectual listening experience. I’m struggling to conceive a cheeky closing one-liner, so I will do my damn job and give some explicit advice: don’t buy this.