Written By: Nameless_N00b_15
Taking the leap from trolling in the comments section to writing serious reviews made me realize how little I really know about an increasingly complex metal genre. Perhaps this is endemic of an ever more experimental metal scene where genre-spanning efforts are becoming more common and reviewers throw out increasingly long lists of sub-sub-categorizations.1 Perhaps I’m young and lack the knowledge base of my elders. Perhaps there is just more music around these days. Whatever the case, Wolfhorde have let the dogs out with the genre hopping Hounds of Perdition, but is this sophomore effort about to get Old Yellered by yours truly?
Nope, these metalloid canines get a doggy biscuit for fetching me a blackened symphonic folk metal album that resides so far from orthodox black metal that mid-80s Mayhem would collectively self-immolate. Hounds of Perdition is a large evolution in Wolfhorde’s sound, as they have taken the leap from a pretty minimalistic blackened folk approach to lush songs with compositions so busy Wintersun would blink. The many layers of featured synths, keys, orchestral instruments, and black metal standbys all share, compete for, and rotate through the spotlight. This leads to an extremely varied display of timbres which livens up even traditional songs structures, but can create sonic traffic jams.
Opener “Chimera” and the closing title track are anything but traditional with nine- and twelve-minute runtimes that go barking up a Dimmu Borgir-shaped tree, though you’re more likely to get gang shouts than choirs here. Both could shed a minute or so of runtime, but Wolfhorde does an admirable job of mixing tempos and keys regardless of which of their bevy of instruments are on feature. In a deft stroke of track listing and editing, the long tracks act as book ends to the other five shorter cuts that race by in three-to-five minute bursts, keeping the middle of the album moving along and both halves of the disk equally strong. “Doctor of the Plague” provides an early highlight with its raucous synth melody and a convincing Arcturus impression by drummer/vocalist Hukkapätkä, while penultimate track “Kill the Light” slips in some twisting strings in surprise moments and a borderline techy guitar solo courtesy of multi-instrumentalist Werihukka. The shorter cuts all have powerful choruses, but even on the long tracks the ear for melodicism remains, such as in “Hounds of Perdition,” where twinkling keys ride over top of a full-blown pit riff.
Wolfhorde doesn’t entirely escape the choke collar though, as there are a few minor compositional flaws and one glaring production woe plaguing Hounds of Perdition. A couple of songs suffer from nearly self-plagiarized riffs on occasion, and the band can get predictable with the timing of their non-metal shenaniganery. The grievous offense comes in the form of the production, weighing in at a puny DR 6. That might get you by for re-thrash, but it is suffocating when synths, keys, woodwinds, guitars and drums are all firing at once such as on “Chimera.” All the delicate details become lost in a monolithic wall of sound. That said, Wolfhorde shines their brightest when utilizing all of their different sounds in succession rather simultaneously. “Hounds of Perdition” features a wonderful progression from a solo into a tremolo run, into a second solo with synth accompaniment, before finishing with a flourish from a flute of all things
I was determined to start this year with a fiery proclamation from the Hall, dispensing vitriol and 2.0s upon all who had the misfortune of passing through my headphones. Wolfhorde pissed all over that concept with rocking riffs, stomping choruses, and more folky goodness than you can shake a stick at. My Happy Metal Guy is showing in my inability to not enjoy things, or maybe I’ve had a statistically anomalous spree of picking good music at random from the promo bin. I resolve to listen to three metalcore and three re-thrash promos in penance, and hope that AMG Management and Jørn take mercy, though I do not deserve it.