Wolfheart – Wolves of Karelia (Album Review)

Wolfheart – Wolves of Karelia (Album Review)

Keeping at a blistering pace, Finland’s Wolfheart are set to return on Friday, April 10th, 2020 with their new album Wolves of Karelia via Napalm Records.

Wolfheart’s fifth LP since launching just seven years ago in 2013, mastermind Tuomas Saukkonen suspended all of his other activities – Black Sun Aeon, The Final Harvest, and Before the Dawn – in order to focus on the new vision. Now with a quick follow-up,  Saukkonen keeps the same core lineup around him as he did for 2018’s Constellation of the Black Light – namely Lauri Silvonen on bass/backing vocals, Joonas Kauppinen on drums, all while he remains on guitars, vocals, and most everything else, along with the help of session musician Vagelis Karzis adding additional guitar. That in mind, a similar mood carries between the two albums without being repetitive, and this is all as Wolfheart explores the far reaches of its punishing homeland. 

Spanning eight tracks, Wolves of Karelia paints the beautiful desolation of their home country with a cold, bitter brush, moving from the harsh tones of Melodic Death Metal to the warmer sounds of acoustic pieces. Case in point is the ground covered by the three songs released as video singles so far – “Hail of Steel,” “Ashes,” and “The Hammer.”

First, “Hail of Steel” opens the album picking up right where Constellation of the Black Light ended; laying a bruising groundwork over which lead guitar and the raspy vocals of Saukkonen paint a brutal picture of battle. Then closer “Ashes,” comes at you as a six minutes maudlin acoustic piece whose pace and volume is quickly augmented by brash riffs along with emotional solos.

In between these two themes is “The Hammer.” Keeping to a similar vibe as Constellation of the Black Light’s “The Saw,” this new track is a gloved fist raised in the air, ready to break down the door of Blackened Death Metal with a Finnish twist. Eschewing the growls of Saukkonen, the closing two minutes then take diametric paths. The first you hear the song dropping pretense into a brisk, painful march. This is before the last minute becomes a somber, acoustic lull that introduces “Eye of the Storm;” a further instrumental track which, true to its name, offers a brief respite about halfway through the deluge. Later, “Arrows of Chaos” clears a melodic, nearly progressive trail. Then there is “Born from Fire” which brings aggressive verses backed by syncopated choruses. This is highlighted by a serpentine guitar solo which makes a quick appearance, however it is rhythm guitar work that will haunt you long after Wolves of Karelia has closed.

In enough words, Wolfheart has wasted little time putting together a formidable follow-up to Constellation of the Black Light. Overall, the efforts put into Wolves of Karelia takes on a similar shape to it’s predecessor, while stripping the songs just slightly. The songs here are a bit more melodic, but without sacrificing craft or efficacy, and certainly not brutality. Fans of earlier work will find much to like here, and the varied styles and song structures will entice new listeners as well. A worthy addition to the Wolfheart portfolio, Cryptic Rock gives Wolves of Karelia 4 out of 5 stars. 

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Adrian Breeman
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