Wolfchant - Determined damnation 3.5/5

Reviewed: 12-18-09





Tracklist:

1. Determinatino begins
2. World in ice
3. Until the end
4. Determined damnation
5. In war
6. Fate of the fighting man
7. Kein engel hort dich flehen
8. A raven's flight
9. Never too drunk
10. Schwerter der erde
11. Auf blut gebaut
12. Under the wolves banner


This is the sort of music that would, if the band responsible came from a few hundred miles to the north, be called viking/folk metal, but ends up instead with the prefix ‘pagan’ despite the obvious similarities in style with their Nordic contemporaries.

Genre Police moaning aside, Wolfchant are a German band that play the folk-melodic death style championed by the likes of Ensiferum and Falchion, and do a pretty fine job of it too. ‘Determined damnation’ is their 3rd full-length and a very ambitious effort with plenty going in its favour. There are sadly also a few down points that weaken the CD and just keep the band from reaching their lofty goals on this attempt.

But I suppose it’s only proper to begin with the good news, and there is thankfully quite a bit of it to go around. A couple of dismal tracks aside, the music is always good to great – anyone familiar with this side of the genre will be unsurprised but doubtlessly impressed by the heroic guitar melodies and the chilling soundscapes tied in with the swords-and-ice lyrics.

Uwe Lulis is in the producer’s chair, and one of the strongest sells on the CD comes as an indirect result; his Rebellion bandmate Michael Seifert has been roped in to add his stunning vocals to the mix, and he elevates the 4 songs where he faces off with frontman Lokhi with startling results.

Lokhi’s vocals are in truth quite limited – he can’t hold notes for very long, and his growls are stuttering and don’t flow and roll like the best singers in his style – so bringing in a powerhouse like Seifert was a very shrewd move that adds crucial variety and extra emotion at key points on the CD. His sudden appearance for a battling duet in the 2nd half of opener “World in ice” blindsided me at least on first listen and suddenly seemed to open the CD up to something much grander than what I had been expecting.

The guest star may steal a bit of the spotlight, but of course the band have to be up to scratch too and on the majestic title track “Determined damnation” it all comes together quite perfectly. The dread, ominous intro sets the tone of foreboding melancholy, and the huge, bitter chorus is nothing short of spectacular. Seifert does run the show, his voice almost unbelievable to behold, but Lokhi’s contribution is crucial, punctuating the operatic baritone with carefully worked precision.

For the most part they also manage to get on fine on their own, as galloping battle cries like “A raven’s flight” and “In war” really hit the spot. Not everything they do is spectacular, and sometimes the lack of originality becomes a little too obvious, but generally speaking Wolfchant really seem to be on the right path. This makes it all the more puzzling when the CD suddenly threatens to completely derail with a couple of serious misfires towards the conclusion.

“Never too drunk” starts promisingly with a playful acoustic-played melody, but soon drives it into the ground with the living nightmare of a chorus, the same tune used to interminably repeat the simplistic thing over and over again to truly obnoxious effect. It sounds like a cack-handled attempt to marry together the sort of endlessly repetitive choruses Korpiklaani have used in some of their ‘drinking songs’ with the more serious nature of Wolfchant’s own style, and it fails with predictably disastrous results.

The song that immediately follows, “Schwerter der erde”, is another head-scratcher, the recurring slow, grooving riff completely out of place and seriously threatening to kill the momentum altogether. They thankfully get their act together quickly, and finish the CD on a high with the closing “Under the wolves banner”. The thunderous symphonic intro leads the way for Seifert’s triumphant return on a sweeping chorus that wraps things up flawlessly.

The glaring failures of ‘Determined damnation’ are pretty infuriating when the overall quality shows up just how needless they were. It still comes with a sound recommendation as 9 of the 11 full songs are striking examples of viking/pagan/whatever metal that are bound to please fans of the style, but the nagging question of what could have been hangs over all it all like the hammer of Thor. Wolfchant have almost everything in their locker – though a permanent clean vocalist wouldn’t hurt – but need to keep their eye on the ball next time round to avoid any more alarming slip ups.



CREAG




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