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Remarkable in its unremarkability - 70%

Noktorn, September 10th, 2011

After listening to this about a dozen times and desperately trying to start a review for it, I've come to a certain conclusion about "Torture of a Human Soul": this is exactly what black metal sounds like today. Not a specific style of black metal- not a French-sounding band, a Darkthrone clone, anything like that- but a sort of aggregate of black metal's various styles and sounds congealed into a whole. People ask for primers on the black metal genre and others give them advice and suggestions, usually in the canon of classic black metal albums. Wolfsschrei, on the other hand, actually sounds like what we know as Black Metal these days. It is what you hear when you think of those words in your head. It helps as well that it's quite good.

Wolfsschrei plays a German style of black metal that really just forms an average of other styles of black metal. The riffs are mostly tremolo-based and fluctuate between a Germanic style of melody and a somewhat atonal, Darkthrone-style crunching dissonance, both tempered with an almost depressive, rainy sort of musical texture. Drums are simple and straightforward- slow blasts, rock-based depressive sections, and simple fills, while vocals are a straightforward screech you've heard a thousand times before. Wolfsschrei's music tends to hum and throb with a bleary, modern sense of energy, distorted and static to the point of an almost complete lack of identity- yet that somehow works. Wolfsschrei's music isn't so much meant to be a statement of identity and style so much as a very immediate, present sense of what black metal is at a certain moment- which paradoxically makes it reflect the genre better than nearly anything else.

From moment to moment this music has an immediate, attacking energy, where every note seems to replace the one before it rather than lead into a narrative whole. The riffs are intense and engaging, but very fast, intense, and somewhat intentionally shallow- they're melodic, but they don't lead to some great understanding or revelation. They ride off the insistent texture of thrash beats and sluggish depressive passages without really meaning much more than what they immediately are. While "Torture of a Human Soul" is an overtly shallow piece of music, what it lacks in depth it more than makes up for by knowing its limits and functioning as a wonderful, sort of adolescently spirited slab of fast, engaging black metal that exists merely to exist and nothing more.

If you're seeking something brilliant and classic, this is not it. However, Wolfsschrei's music seems almost more inherently relevant due to its total and intentional irrelevancy. "Torture of a Human Soul" is going to last forever simply because it was never built to last- it's black metal to the core, and I would rather listen to this than nearly anything else much of the time.

(Originally written for