Thursday, November 17, 2011

Wolfenhords - The Truth Shall Set You Free (2011)

My last encounter with Croatia's one-man storm Wolfenhords came through White Power for White People Fight!, a raunchy but entertaining NSBM album released back in 2009. There was this unusual, futurist theme running through that, which was unique alongside the political slant of the lyrics. Well, politics do also play a role on this new, fourth full-length The Truth Shall Set You Free, but The Nobll has decided to distance himself from the more brazen ideological roots, and let the music do the talking for the most part. Amazingly, this is also also a difficult record to totally nail down, since it stylistically deviates from where the previous albums were at.

The core of The Truth Shall Set You Free is a tight mix of black, thrash and heavy metal which is characterized by The Nobll's excellent vocals. I remember digging these back on the last record, but here he proves he's got one of the best voices for the hybrid style on the whole Eurasian continent. Think of a mix of Mille Petrozza, Tom Angelripper, Cronos and Ron Royce of the Swiss Coroner, toss in an edge of more common black metal rasping and profit. He is all over this thing, not to mention his guitar skills, which are solid in both the rhythm and lead departments. Tracks like "Bastard Religion", "The Vault", and "Welcome to Croatia" are loaded to the brim with memorable if not wholly unique riffing, and he even manages to overcome the hurdle of the 11 minute title track by interspersing an acoustic bridge and flurried pagan/folk riffing throughout.

And that folkish influence is one of the elements that separates Wolfenhords apart from just being another black thrash band like we've heard a hundred times before. All of this is done quite well, almost festive and celebratory in its execution, but the album becomes even MORE eclectic with the incorporating of some synthesizer works like "Occult Orchid", which plays out like an epic video game battle march, or "Saturn Rising" in which The Nobll flirts with the industrial genre in a huge, successful way. To top all of this off, he has included three covers, the best of which are Hellhammer's "Sweet Torment" and Burzum's "War", both delivered in a highly professional, polished thrash fashion with the distinctive vocals fully at the fore. Probably the only song I didn't find myself banging along to here was "The Cartel of Blood", if only because the opening riff felt like a derivative of Accept's "Balls to the Wall".

The production is near perfect without succumbing to studio sterility. The vocals sound insanely good, and the guitars have a righteous punch to them where needed, leads and dual melodies that blaze through the rhythm section, and a good, in the face acoustic tone. But the album is also packed with songs, 17 in total, so there is this enormous value to be experienced with very few missteps anywhere to be found. Normally I think of an album like this as scatterbrained and unable to commit to a consistent style or theme, but The Nobll has simply written a slew of entertaining songs here that broaden his horizons beyond the last album, and will hopefully broaden his exposure beyond his home turf in Croatia. Quite a spectacle for just one man...

Verdict: Win [8.25/10]

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