Wolfchant - Call of the black winds 3.5/5
1. Black winds rising (prelude)
6. Heathen rise
7. Never will fall
8. Die nacht der wolfe
9. The last farewell
10. Der stahl in meinem feinde
11. Call of the black winds
A few frustratingly crap songs aside the Wolfchant CD previous to this one, ‘Determined damnation’, was a mostly very satisfactory offering of dark melodic death/folk metal. The German troupe were left with a bit of a conundrum following its release though, as by far and away the most impressive thing about it came from someone who wasn’t even in the band. Rebellion vocalist Michael Seifert’s astounding performances on a few songs really elevated the CD as a whole and brought an extra power and dignity that would otherwise have been absent.
How to go forward must have been sticky discussion, as while clean vocals had never been prominent part of their sound beforehand, it was clear to anyone listening that it was the way forward for them and having someone in the band to perform them was a necessity. In the end they have gone the whole hog and brought Seifert onboard full-time (now painted-up and known as Nortwin) and while ‘Call of the black winds’ benefits massively from his presence, it’s also obvious that they haven’t managed to get the balance right yet.
More than anything, original vocalist Lokhi is beginning to look like a bit of a 5th wheel – his blackened rasps were to be honest never the strongest, and on a lot of the songs it simply sounds like he’s only there out of obligation and it magnifies the problem.
It’s often the case when a band have 2 full-time vocalists that don’t also play an instrument to keep them busy that things just end up sounding cluttered and with 2 voices battling for space when one would be more than enough. That is certainly the case here, and too many of the songs feature predictable trading off of verses before both singers battle it out in the chorus, with Lokhi’s squawks more often than not just becoming an irksome distraction.
Aside from this major niggle, Wolfchant actually seem to be making some progress – the writing is a great deal more consistent here and the CD is not plagued by the same blatant weakspots that ‘Determined damnation’ was. Their approach has been tweaked somewhat as well, not massively so, but enough to notice the change. Having a vocalist of Seifert’s considerable calibre onboard has opened new channels to the band and there is notable increase in upbeat songs. The heroic melody of the opener, “Stormwolves” really throws down the gauntlet in this regard and there are far more power metal influences to be heard than before.
The bleak, sorrowful tone that characterised the band previously hasn’t been done away with though and indeed the highlight of the entire CD is the centrepiece “Heathen rise”, a real melancholy masterstroke. Beginning on a fey keyboard passage (provided by another promoted former guest musician, Dieter “Gvern” Kasberger), it builds into a powerful midtempo anti-religious tirade where Seifert is at his astounding best, particularly on the arresting chorus.
The half-acoustic ballad “The last farewell” is another living on the gloomy side of the line and another that simply wouldn’t have been possible for the band in the days before they found Seifert. Songs like these show where their greatest strength now lies, and it looks like they will soon need to making another tough decision about their future. Loyalty is one thing, but persevering in their current style is to the detriment of the band, and it’s pretty obvious which of the 2 vocalists will have to make way if they are to fully unlock their potential – after all, with 5 other grown men in the band there surely must be one with a passable enough growl to fill the gaps when needed and allow the songs crucial breathing space the rest of the time.
With ‘Call of the black winds’ Wolfchant have really taken 2 steps forward and one step back – the songs are on the whole stronger and they have a fully commanding presence behind the microphone at last, but until they manage to unclutter the vocal arrangements they aren’t going to go any further forward.
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