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Who let the wolves out? - 85%

drengskap, July 11th, 2007

From deep within the Franconian forests, those masters of the macabre Ulf Theodor Schwadorf and Allen B. Konstanz emerge with their third album, scheduled for release in early September 2007, and it’s their strongest and most focused work yet. Continuity with the past is implied in the title The Wolves Go Hunt Their Prey, which is taken from a line in the title track of the last album, Carpathia. However, the new album finds The Vision Bleak emphasising their thrash and death metal roots, with fewer symphonic frills and curlicues than on Carpathia.

The album, containing nine tracks which total 43 minutes, opens with the sombre fanfare of ‘Amala & Kamala’, a snare drum beating out a slow march as Schwadorf’s guitar salutes the faithful in the manner of Hammerheart-era Bathory. The title is a reference to two famous wolf-girls, discovered living a feral existence with wolves in India in 1920. The tempo, riffs and guitar solo of ‘Amala & Kamala’ hearken back to the glory days of Metallica and classic 80s thrash. The next track, ‘She-Wolf’, continues the lupine theme of the album, but is faster and dirtier, again recalling Metallica, with a full-throated, choppily aggressive attack. ‘The Demon Of The Mire’ is among the most unambiguously death metal tracks so far produced by The Vision Bleak, although it features orchestral strings, brass and harp. Imagine if you can Slayer crossed with Danzig, and you won’t be far off.

The next three tracks, collectively entitled ‘The Black Pharaoh Trilogy’, form the centrepiece of Wolves…, and they find The Vision Bleak returning to the cult American horror writer HP Lovecraft for inspiration. The first section of the trilogy, simply entitled ‘Introduction’, is an atmospheric scene-setter, with crashing gongs and sitar evoking a mood of oriental exoticism similar to that of Carpathia’s ‘The Curse Of Arabia’. Fans of Nile will love this, and I was also reminded of The Meads Of Asphodel, who’ve produced plenty of work with a middle-eastern flavour. ‘Part I: The Shining Trapezohedron’, which takes its title from Lovecraft, employs some ethereal female backing vocals, though it’s noticeable that in general Wolves… uses female vocals much more sparingly than either of the previous two TVB albums, presumably in a attempt to escape the ‘gothic metal’ tag which the band have been so keen to reject. The final section of ‘The Black Pharaoh Trilogy’ is ‘Part II: The Vault Of Nephren-Ka’, which maintains the prevailing mood of creeping doom and primordial menace, with slow, choppy riffs intermingled with choral vocals. A lengthy middle passage overlays deep ambient synth tones with acoustic guitar and orchestral accents, before Schwadorf launches into an electric guitar solo.

‘The Eldrich Beguilement’ is another slab of gothed-up death metal, solid but less compelling than ‘She-Wolf’ or ‘The Demon Of The Mire’. ‘Evil Is Of Old Date’ opens with deep, doom-laden bass notes over suspenseful cymbal work, before picking up pace with an aggressive riff reminiscent of Unleashed or Amon Amarth, though the bass work is the most striking feature of this track. The Wolves Go Hunt Their Prey closes in triumphal style with the anthemic ‘By Our Brotherhood With Seth’, which is likely to become a TVB signature tune along the lines of ‘The Lone Night Rider’. Lyrically, it’s an extension of the themes of ‘The Black Pharaoh Trilogy’, with references to the mythology of the ancient Egyptians, for whom Seth (or Set) was a personification of evil and destruction.

As with previous TVB releases, the art direction of The Wolves Go Hunt Their Prey is of a very high standard, with an evocative cover image showing wolves lurking in ambush as an unsuspecting traveller approaches. The album is available in both a standard edition and a deluxe two-disc edition, containing a bonus live DVD and a coupon for ordering an exclusive T-shirt and free patch.

This review was originally written for Judas Kiss webzine: