on 23 April 2009
I dunno what it is about Germany, but since the heydays of Blind Guardian and Helloween the country has been spawning great metal band after great metal band. Its now time to add Wolfchant to that list!
Wolfchant play viking/folk metal with strong black metal metal elements and occupy a comfortable middle group between the singalong melodies of Ensiferum or Finntroll and the heavier side such as Manegarm or Thryfing. If you're looking for comparisons then fellow Germans Suidakra would probably be your best bet as there is a lot of similarity between the bands, especially earlier Suidakra ala The Arcanum. Both bands use folk melodies, screaming/growling and occasional clean vocals and almost constant high-end lead guitars throughout. However, Wolfchant are slightly different from the pack in that they don't have keyboards or choirs in their music. As such, the music is much more guitar orientated and has more of a raw, black metal feel then many of their contemporaries, and this lack of 'epic-ness' is actually quite refreshing, as is the noticable lack of melodic death or power metal attributes.
Anyone looking for the perfect folk/viking metal album should find solace and contentment in A Pagan Storm. They may not be to high in the originality stakes, but the album is simply killer from start to finish. There's no point going through song by song coz they're all of such high class. They run the whole gauntlet of the genre, from charging blast beats and fast rythyms through driving galloping riffs to anthemic mid paced chugging and absolutly heroic folkly guitar melodies and the token acoustic passages with a passion, energy and vigour that is truly infectious. The heavy bits are hard as hell, the soothing parts with caress your soul, the bouncy sections will have you dancing on your kitchen table like a lunatic, and the sing-along choruses will have you wailing like a gypsy in no time. Simply put, its a real blast to listen to and i never find myself skipping any of the tracks. The guiatr work, while not overly technical, is suberb and solid throughout as every riff and fill Wolfchant hurl at us is pure gold, and the drumming is also powerful, muscular and versitile. The vocals are probably the most extreme i've ever heard in viking metal, as Lokhi's utterly evil screams and occasional growls have a sickeningly guttaral and subterranian quality that makes me wonder how human beings can make such noises. He even makes Jari of Wintersun sound live Bon Jovi by comparison. Its defintly at odds with many of the melodies on offer, but the odd paradox works well.
Now, like i said before, A Pagan Storm is pretty much a perfect folk metal album, and had this had been my first contact with the genre i'd give this 5 stars without hesitation. The problem is that A Pagan Storm is high on everything except originality. Aside from the frighteningly brutal vocalist, there's nothing distinctly 'wolfchant' about their sound as they follow a path already well worn by the likes of Ensiferum and Suidakra. If in future they can develop their own unique identity then they'll definitly secure a place amoung the greats of the genre. If not, they made fad into obscurity as countless indistinctive folk metal bands crawl out of the woodwork. Only time will tell...