September 26, 2018 Wolfheart – Constellation of the Black Light (Album Review)
While most artists strive for the clarity of uniqueness, it is not often a band decides on its own genre label. That said, it is even less often the results are anything short of awful or self-important. Neither is the case with Finnish revelers Wolfheart, initially the side project of mastermind Tuomas Saukkonen.
Dissolving his other bands including Before the Dawn, he joined up with Mika Lammassaari on lead guitar, Lauri Silvonen on bass guitar/backing vocals, and Joonas Kauppinen on drums to devote all energy to Wolfheart. Keeping very busy since launching five years ago, their chosen Winter Metal moniker accurately captures both the brutal working environment of their homeland and the impressive output the band manages to produce. Hence the excitement as Wolfheart returns on Friday, September 28th with fourth overall offering Constellation of the Black Light through Napalm Records.
As far as a precise definition for Winter Metal? Well, some parts evoke the Melodic Death of their Swedish neighbors, while other moments are nearly on par with the mid-nineties Black Metal coming out of Norway. Still, others are plodding nods to Funeral Doom bands, although the tempos exhibited here would need to be halved (at least) before being considered for that last category. In all cases, even when invoking their influences, the band always stands on a hill of their own making.
A follow-up to 2017’s Tyhjyys, Constellation of the Black Light consists of 7 new songs. Gifting the lengthiest track first, “Everlasting Fall” opens the album with a simple acoustic elegy before sweeping into nearly a decade’s worth of long swaths of sadness. The band makes liberal use of haunting keyboards and wailing riffs, constantly sheathed in the duality of battling the cold north while also succumbing to its beauty. There are some riffs here so heart-wrenching they might have found themselves at home on Anathema’s 1996 album Eternity, or even 2001’s A Fine Day to Exit, and the tone set on this track lingers throughout the rest of the album.
Having painted a harsh landscape scene, the band shifts to “Breakwater,” which is kicked off by taut riffs and percussion worthy of Norwegian Black Metal, with a twinge of sweeping keyboards and choral voices singing verses, as if aurora borealis (or its opposite) had come to life in musical form. The guitar takes a turn for the melodic before the chorus returns, lamenting the depths of cold and ice that surrounds. The band recently released a frigid video for this track in anticipation of the album release, in which frosted portraits of a frozen water desert are interchanged with the band playing among a burning field. The latter image is an interesting placeholder for the band as a whole, adding warmth and movement to the otherwise barren existence of the somber mood set by the music.
Moving along, “The Saw” takes hold as the band’s other choice for a single and video. A great selection, the track does well to cover all of what makes the band unique, while still keeping relatively short enough to fit into the public listening. However, the single version robs listeners of the brief muffled intro that helps set continue the feeling of dismay. Then there is “Defender,” which could almost be considered Melodic Death Metal as it opens with riffs and blast beats over airy keyboards. That in mind, the verses are almost head-bobbing infectious in the vein of In Flames. This is followed by”Warfare,” where the opening progression borrows lightly from At the Gates before the track clears its own path by mixing blast beats, seraphic keyboards, and raspy vocals.
Lastly, the closing blasts of “Valkyrie” complete the depressing adventure set forth by Constellation of the Black Light. While the band has done well to distract its audience into a warm embrace these past forty-odd minutes, the haunting melodies here serve serve as a bookend to the dark path set forth on “Everlasting Fall” as a sad shallow piano slowly closes the wound.
Four albums into their impressive career, Wolfheart show no signs of slowing down, or speeding up, for that matter. Their chilling style only improves with each effort, and Constellation of the Black Light is a worth successor to both Tyhjyys and 2015’s Shadow World. The band continues to challenge itself, while still maintaining its unique mix of Black, Death, and Doom Metal, yet always covered in a crisp clean layer of icy frost. That is why CrypticRock gives Constellation of the Black Light 4 out of 5 stars.