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You’ve really got to love angry Germans, don’t you? Especially when they’re picking up a guitar and a mic rather than an MP-40 and the Rhineland. And this little-known black metal band most certainly falls under the category of angry Germans. Back in 1996, Wolfsmond, featuring members of both Eternity and Absurd, released this fantastic 20-minute demo of slow, bile-spewing black metal which has since, much like the band itself, unfortunately fallen into the fog of obscurity that clads much of the black metal scene. However, like quite a lot of hidden black metal gems, obscurity most definitely does not equate to lack of quality.
‘Die Graue Saat’ is one pissed off black metal release. This may seem somewhat redundant considering black metal was essentially formed on the basis of being extremely pissed off about things, but Wolfsmond really do try to underline this point. The tempo is slow throughout with monolithic riffs abrasively grinding along under the harsh production and vitriolic vocal barrage delivered by Managarm. A lot of the material on here greatly reminds me of early Carpathian Forest circa ‘Through Chasm, Caves and Titan Woods’ if it were just slowed down quite a lot, made by Germans and had a slightly more abrasive and melancholic sound. The production in particular is very similar to that album, with its very murky but also quite harsh sound and thick, grimy guitar and drum tone. However, this is a much more minimalistic approach to black metal than anything Carpathian Forest ever took on, with many of the riffs being very simplistic mid-tempo chord progressions that slowly build the dark, aggressive and oppressive atmosphere of the demo before unleashing into something slightly quicker but just as equally brimming with hostility. Surprisingly, there are also a number of melancholic, clean guitar passages here that remind me (especially on the title track) very strongly of Agalloch with their sombre and down-cast atmosphere, even though that particular band wouldn’t release anything for years after this. These contrasts between the beautiful and the ugly work fantastically well and work to emphasise the overall tone and feeling of the demo.
The drumming often takes on a quite militaristic style, laying a simple but brooding beat that marches along under the atmospheric layers of the guitars. However, when he’s needed, the drummer is more than capable of unleashing the occasional barrage of blast beats to give the music an injection of energy in between the sinister walls of guitar-angst. Also, Managarm must have been taking injections of hatred in concentrated form (is that available over the counter yet?), because his vocals are something to be behold. Swaying between incredibly intense rasps and maniacal cackling that would be grounds for being put away for a very long time, his vocals dominate the release, sitting quite high in the mix and commanding the listener’s attention. Most of the feeling of the demo comes from the vocal performance; spewing out a kind of hatred and feeling of misanthropy that would inspire Oprah Winfrey to want to burn down her African schools.
It honestly is quite a challenge to listen to this release and not feel sudden surges of anger and belligerence. The music here speaks of a type of misanthropy that Boyd Rice would be proud of. The German black metal scene has fostered a number of terrific bands over the years, and this is another that does not seem to get the recognition it deserves as it seems to be overshadowed by the presence of its much more popular cousins. More’s the pity, as this is the kind of release that the black metal community at large should embrace.