Wolvhammer – Clawing Into Black Sun (Profound Lore)

Thursday, 17th July 2014
Rating: 9/10

One need to listen no further than mid-album piece “Slaves To The Grime” to catch the whole of the vibe that Wolvhammer seeks with its newest opus Clawing Into Black Sun: much akin to other Chicago-area bands this year, the American Dream has come true and no one is happy to be living in the aftermath. A solid black core tempered with edges of melancholy, fury, and the outermost fringes of despair, this is not only another killer release from the ever-improving Wolvhammer but another trophy on the shelf for genre-leader Profound Lore.

In a similar vein to label-mates Coffinworm/Lord Mantis Wolvhammer is another practitioner of mixing black metal with forays into funeral marches though unlike the others, there’s less doom and a greater focus on expressing despair via blastbeats and blackened fires ala “The Desanctification”. Opener “The Silver Key” sets the stage, a depressive and slow beginning, with a particularly poignant ogression giving way to blackened streaks, blastbeats taking over and carrying what is likely equally parts misery and misanthropy until the bottom falls out and the song returns to its harsh and plodding beginnings, distant melody screaming in the otherwise suffocating black.

The bookending tracks are the longest here (both over 8 minutes), though the album, exhausting as it is, never feels overlong. Closer “A Light That Doesn’t Yield” is a surprising turn for the band, capturing just the tiniest glimmer of positivity in its slowly-cascading waves of miasmatic dark. Distant clean vocals and an absolutely heart-wrenching mid/end section that leaves an enormous and haunting impression long after the album has given way to silence. If there’s a song against which the ruins of man are measured, there’s a good chance it’s likely to be this one, holy shit.

Of the many albums that have come and gone and been fantastic in 2014, this is one I looked forward to most, having enjoyed The Obsidian Plains enormously in 2011. The atmosphere on this album, however, completely shadows their previous work and a great deal of most of the already excellent work that’s been released this year. If it’s a ruined age we live in now, at least the music is making it bearable. Against the shadows of dying cities and the internal rot that comes with progress, Wolvhammer has penned a fitting documentary to the slow-decline of the world we know.

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