Wolf King – The Path of Wrath Review

California’s Wolf King came bursting out the blocks with their impressive 2018 debut, Loyal to the Soil, a piece I covered during the annual Things You might Have Missed season. Armed with a seething attack, hybridizing extreme metal with blackened hardcore, solid riffs and chunky grooves, the album served up gnarly aggression and pissed off attitude in spades, boding well for a bright future. Now the band returns with sophomore LP, The Path of Wrath, upping the intensity and blackened quotient, while otherwise keeping the guts of the debut formula intact. Although slightly less sludge and rock riddled, Wolf King set off vibes not dissimilar to German wrecking ball Mantar, a favorable comparison to my ears. Fueled by corrosive extremity and unbridled rage, can Wolf King combine songwriting value with their unabashed ferocity?

Following a restrained piece of mid-tempo riffery and thick groove on opening instrumental, “”River of Light,” Wolf King cut to the chase with the thrashy opening salvo of “Messenger of Death.” As tends to be the trend, Wolf King fluctuate between blasting, blackened d-beat bursts of up-tempo urgency, riff-centric chugs of menacing hardcore riffage, and mid-tempo crunch. It’s a formula they largely stick to, with the at times predictable nature of the arrangements offset by the band’s willingness to integrate slivers of melody, hooky riffs, and dynamic change-ups. While perhaps less initially hooky compared to the debut, The Path of Wrath sounds like a vital extension of the blackened hardcore combo of the debut. Everything is ramped up a few notches in intensity and the songwriting is largely more diverse and well rounded.

There are plenty of ragged chunks of meaty metal to sink your teeth into here, with the standards rarely less than passable. When Wolf King get their formula right, there’s much to get excited by. “Wandering Soul” rips and tears through turbulent waves of sludgy hardcore beatdowns, muscular groove riffs, and jacked bursts of scorched earth black metal. The song marks a fine example of Wolf King’s cross genre style. Grit, immense heft, and instantly headbangable riffage dominates “Triumph to the Slain.” Continuing a strong early album surge, “Sanctuary” is another adrenaline charged tune to get the blood pumping with its swaggering attitude and tough exterior. Elsewhere the momentum and fire are not always up to the same standards, relentless fury and energy not withstanding. In the editing department, time could have been shaved from a few tunes, especially long-winded closer “Eternal Hunger.” Meanwhile a couple of the less inspired songs should perhaps have remained on the cutting room floor. “Grief Portrait” comes across a little clunky, with a more awkward coupling of their black and hardcore roots, while the doom-laden “Incantation” has interesting ideas stretched too thin. I do like Wolf King’s dabbling in doom and old school death territory, elements that may be worth exploring further.

For all their foot on throat methods of execution, Wolf King take an ambitious and risky route with the sheer length of The Path of Wrath. At a hefty 53 minutes, the punishing throes and less varied elements of the Wolf King sound do wear a little thin, with potency and engagement levels uneven. Unfortunately the quality vs quantity ratio is a bit out of whack, with some songs blasting by without many memorable attributes, and occasional lack of song individuality. Meanwhile the savage vocals will grate on some listeners over extended periods, though they do drip with a satisfying blend of seething malice and wholehearted passion. While I can envision Wolf King gaining a wider audience, their hybrid style leave them in an interesting situation. Black metal purists will probably turn their nose up due to the cross pollination, while hardcore kids may find the metal genre mash-up a little distracting.

In many ways The Path of Wrath trumps Wolf King’s solid debut, refining their potent extreme metal attack, combining scorched, ragged components of black metal, hardcore and sludge into a fiery tornado of rage, menace and attitude. Darker, heavier, and more intense, the album’s impressively caustic battery and brawling aggression cannot quite overcome some songwriting deficiencies and bloated length. Wolf King is a band on the rise, and I’ve certainly enjoyed my time with The Path of Wrath. Unfortunately it is not quite the monstrous outing it could have been.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 128kbps mp3
Label: Prosthetic Records
Websites: wolfking.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/wolfkinghc
Releases Worldwide: March 5th, 2021

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