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The black winds are calling your name - 85%

TrooperOfSteel, April 30th, 2012

While the Scandinavian countries of Europe have always been flush with numerous folk/pagan/Viking metal bands over the decades, metal bands of Deutschland have tried many times to replicate certain metal genres that did not formally originate on their soil. One such band called Wolfchant, from out of Bavaria, have embraced that Scandinavian sound as their own since forming in 2003. Two demos and three full-length releases later, Wolfchant have grabbed a fair chunk of popularity and success from their music. Now firmly under Massacre Records’ wing after being signed before the release of their third album, Wolfchant have returned in 2011 to deliver their 4th album, titled ‘Call of the Black Winds’.

Noting a trend in bands turning towards the pagan metal genre, which is basically a form of extreme metal attached to pre-Christian traditions and beliefs – i.e. Paganism, mixed with elements of folk metal; Pagan metal seems to be the flavour of the month for the last few years. It seems great timing then that Wolfchant would release their latest effort in the thick of the trend; however there have been a few line-up changes since the 3rd album. Rhythm guitarist Derrmorh left the band in 2010 and has been replaced by Ragnar, while the band has also enlisted Gvern as a keyboardist, allowing Norgahd to concentrate solely on drums. The remainder of the line-up consists of guitarist Skaahl, bassist Bahznar and vocalist Lokhi.

Much like the previous album, Wolfchant have again used power metal band Rebellion’s vocalist Michael Seifert to sing clean vocals on the new CD. Seifert would feel right at home in Wolfchant; with his band Rebellion also writing songs about Nordic Mythology. It is also a smart and tactical move by Wolfchant, to help bring in fans of melodic power metal and bridge the gap between the two genres; for as when you think about it, the two are really not that different from one another. Seifert is used in a way that is commonly known in true gothic metal circles, as the “beauty and the beast” method; where Seifert’s bellowing vocals grace the choruses, while Wolfchant vocalist Lokhi’s aggressive, raspy and guttural shrieks are used during the verses (and sometimes in a duet of sorts with Seifert during choruses).

‘Call of the Black Winds’ is a far more polished effort than their previous work, signs showing that the band have matured quite a lot and have found their niche within the pagan/folk metal genre. Lyrically, the song-writing is much more serious and meaningful than silly (as in previous songs from past albums), while also still paying homage to their Nordic gods and Pagan ways. The musical term extreme metal can be used very loosely on this release, if at all, as I feel ‘Call of the Black Winds’ is more of a softer melodic shade of traditional folk/pagan metal and really can’t see many comparisons to black metal; aside from the similar style of raw, rough and spitting vocals.

With that out of the way, ‘Call of the Black Winds’ contains all the typical musical themes found within the melodic folk/pagan metal genre, including fierce and swift guitar chords, enchanting keys and pounding drum lines. There is an epic feel throughout, with these bard-ish elements fused together quite nicely; topped off with the interesting and entertaining twin harsh/clean vocal battle between Lohki and Seifert. While there is nothing new produced here that hasn’t been heard before, on the other hand there isn’t anything that has been re-hashed. It does sound fresh and it seems that Wolfchant are comfortable at the sound they are trying to accomplish.

Songs to get the head and fist pumping would include “Stormwolves”, “Never Will Fail”, the pummelling “Die Nacht Der Wölfe”, the riff-laden “Eremit” and the fury of “Naturgewalt”. However the 3 absolute killer tracks would be the punishing and brutally fast “Black Fire”, the slow building ballad-disguising “The Last Farewell” and lastly the epic title track “Call of the Black Winds”. Fittingly placed as the final track on the album, “Call of the Black Winds” clocks in at just under 9 minutes and is a brilliant bombastic track that contains furious aggression, pounding drums and overflowing emotion.

At the end of the day, ‘Call of the Black Winds’ is an excellent pagan/folk metal release and in my opinion Wolfchant’s most consistent and mature CD thus far. Does that, therefore, make it their best release to date? In my opinion, that’s a yes. The addition of clean vocals from Michael Seifert adds an element of depth and dimension to each track, and I believe that Lohki on his own would not have delivered the same result (not saying that Lohki is a bad vocalist). Folk/Viking metal fans should wrap their hands around this release and they shouldn’t be disappointed. Power metal fans may also be able to tolerate the raspy tones of Lohki to enjoy this CD, as the music is somewhat similar, but with obvious differences. Black metal fans should also take an interest in this release if your tastes expand to the pagan and folk genres.

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