Wolves Den – Miserere Review

I sit across from twenty-odd writers with exponentially greater exposure to the metallic world than myself, yet every once in a while I’ll happen upon a band that not one of them (as far as I checked) has heard of before. It’s a small, fleeting moment of fictional validation that I am actually better than everyone else in this Hall, despite the gargantuan gaps in my knowledge of metal lore.1 But damn it, I’m going to hold that imaginary sensation close until my grave and I become one. Anyway, Wolves Den, a German blackened death quartet, unleashed an unsung monster of a record back in 2015 named Deus Vult. While it wasn’t genre-defining or anything like that, I often question why it gets such little fanfare. Perhaps with their sophomore full-length, Miserere, they can establish some kind of foothold in the heart-voids of our fair metal community.

For those who lack the apparently forbidden knowledge of Wolves Den, they peddle a type of blackened death metal that might be better described as deathened black metal (I feel like someone used that phrase here before…). Wafting throughout the swirling tremolos and phlegmy rasps, an ecclesiastical veil of melody conjures visions of deferential rituals held by a small congregation of hooded demons in a Gothic church. At times, metered use of orchestral elements — a horn section here, perhaps some string arrangements there — buff this effect to maximize the ominous atmosphere, but it hardly qualifies the sound as “symphonic.” I expect fans of Batushka (pick one, the point I will make here still holds water) and Darkend to find Wolves Den’s material comparable to that of those bands, though the approach that Wolves Den utilizes is decidedly more melodic and perhaps less aggressive.

For what it’s worth, Wolves Den sure know how to impress me right off the starting line. Opener “Tides of Hate” is a marvelous march manifesting malevolent machinations reminiscent of Kamelot’s massive “March of Mephisto.” The two songs differ musically, but both exude an epic militaristic feel with such distilled simplicity that the connection immediately forms in my mind. A strong opener needs an equally strong army of tracks to back it up, and for the most part Wolves Den supply surefooted soldiers to their cause. “Der Frost in Mir,” “Antaios” and “Nameless Grave” all serve admirably in this regard, offering up icy riffs and dark baritone chants to lull their audience directly to the sacrificial altar of blackened death. Granted, the compositions utilized here aren’t unique or complex for the genre, but their effectiveness as a vehicle for whatever attack Miserere initiates remains uncontested.

Unfortunately, Miserere falters in the same areas which made Deus Vult impressive. The episcopal embellishments shy away for much of Miserere’s duration, whereas before, that same vein surged confidently through the material and elevated every moment in which they were featured. But, as “Nachtmahr” and “Häresie” demonstrate, something is missing from the formula and the resulting product is not only less memorable but also lacks punch in the moment. The riffs in songs not mentioned in the third paragraph, but especially “Pfad ins Dunkel,” lack the same bite as the band’s earlier work. Whether this shift from unrelenting aggro to more atmospheric licks just takes acclimation over time and focused listening, or whether it actively detracts from the record’s quality, only the listener can decide. I believe the latter.

While it seems that Wolves Den secured a grander marketing campaign for Miserere, therefore granting them much deserved exposure, my hope is that newcomers will use this record as motivation to check out their debut. Make no mistake, this sophomore outing constitutes but a mere slump in a bright future of debilitating long-play assaults. For now, however, I cautiously recommend that listeners use Miserere largely as a source for primo playlist options rather than the latest addition to a treasured collection of full albums.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Trollzorn Records
Websites: wolvesden.de | facebook.com/wolvesdenband
Releases Worldwide: May 15th, 2020

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  1. You might be better than me, but do you even olde, bro? – Holdeneye
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