Wolvennest – Temple Review

Belgium is a weird place. Maybe it’s the chocolate or waffles, but any country that offers groups like Neptunian Maximalism, Emptiness, or Amenra & Co. needs to have its cholesterol checked. Spewing out bizarre organic atmosphere with haunting repetition, artists like these have strangely minimalist tendencies that end up feeling bigger than the individual parts suggest. While spanning a broad range of metallic subgenres, it comes across as otherworldly, surreal, and fiercely dark. To add their two cents to these Belgian shenanigans is Wolvennest, described as “experimental psychedelic black metal/ambient” on Metal Archives and whose descriptors have ranged from “black metal to heavy psych and post punk” and “emboldened interpretation[s] of modern psychedelic metal.”

It’s a wild undertaking to fuse the words “experimental” and “psychedelic,” but somehow, Wolvennest lives up to it. 2016 debut, WLVNNST, a collaboration with martial-industrial duo Der Blutharsch and the Infinite Church of the Leading Hand, was described by the illustrious Dr. A.N. Grier as “a ’50s horror movie mixed with occultic doom.” Continuing in the same vein as 2018’s Void, 2021 finds Wolvennest’s Temple offering ritualism in strange fusions. Black metal influences a la Urfaust, Cult of Fire, and Behemoth greet the ears, with healthy flavors of Dead Can Dance and Aluk Todolo, as well as vocalist/drummer/pianist Déhà’s many projects like Slow or Yhdarl. More occult doom than black metal, featuring pummeling drums, blackened chord progressions, disconcerting clean vocals, and semi-raw riffs, Temple is an uneven and overlong listen but its liturgical ambition and drug-fueled bizarreness warrant a few spins.

The highest priority of Temple is to sustain its liturgical theme. As such, Wolvennest offers a masterclass in atmosphere with omnipresent layers of synth and theremin, matching the ritualistic, shamanistic, and occult-driven theme its name suggests. Varied intensity gives Temple its dynamic quality. For example, the blazing Batushka-esque “Mantra” offers overwhelming layers of chants, female vocals, and strange melodic flavors marching to the rhythm of ominously plodding doom percussion and Behemoth-esque chord progressions. Inversely, the placid mostly-instrumental Slow-akin “Alecto” features distant female vocals and droning Amenra-worshiping riffs, paving the way for crazy theremin melodies. “Incarnation” and closer “Souffle de Mort” are great examples of nearly ten-minute dynamic swells, beginning slowly and growing patiently, recalling the drone/doom builds of Dark Buddha Rising. True highlight and album climax “Succubus” features a stunning duet between Déhà and featured artist King Dude, providing a sturdy roaring heartbeat to the album with gravelly tones recalling Peter Steele or Alexander von Meilenwald. Temple wouldn’t be a Wolvennest album without spoken word samples: “Mantra” and “Souffle de Mort” feature haunting spoken rituals in lulling moments, giving it a bit of a Monoliths & Dimensions-era Sunn O))) vibe.

While the best tracks of Temple rely on stunning hypnotic repetition with a steady heartbeat of doomy drums and raw riffs, the negatives are found when Wolvennest’s assets, namely vocals, breach the surface into too-much and too-often territory. Case in point is the 10-minute-long dozer “Swear to Fire,” which features Déhà’s clean vocals that are frankly too loud in the mix and don’t contribute to the dynamic in a frustratingly repetitive reverb-y melody that feels uncomfortable at best. Likewise, in spite of the solid driving rhythm and pulsating organic tempo elevating “All That Black,” Déhà’s vocals are simply too loud and too mundane, derailing an otherwise solid offering. Following the ferocious “Succubus,” closers “Disappear” and “Souffle de Mort” feel limp in the falling action with their gentler songwriting. Also, like countrymen Neptunian Maximalism in particular, Wolvennest demands that listeners buy into the aesthetic, as Temple is far from immediately gripping; when it stumbles into jarring territory, it can be difficult to re-immerse. Its protracted hour and eighteen minute length and inconsistent nature thus grows burdensome over a single listen.

Ultimately, in spite of its flaws and highlights, Temple is an overlong album with more promise than highlights. It’s weird as fuck, as ambitious Urfaust-esque cleanly sung and chanted hyper-atmospheric black metal/doom with a healthy dose of theremin fit the descriptors “psychedelic” and “experimental” very well. Its ambition is there, the songwriting is sturdy, and the hypnotic repetition truly evocative. However, when its psychedelic tricks forsake subtlety, meticulously crafted drug-fueled shamanistic atmosphere derails and listeners can find it difficult to reengage. But its atmosphere is front and center, and when it lands, it’s hard to match. It may not soar to the heights of its aforementioned countrymen, but with simply trimming of excess vocals and tightening up the production, Wolvennest’s best is yet to come.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 13 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Ván Records
Websites: wolvennest.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/wolvennestband
Releases Worldwide: March 5th, 2021


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