Werewolf Records, the label founded by Werwolf of the infamous Satanic Warmaster (among tons of other bands) has recently entered into a partnership with Hells Headbangers. The label is kicking off 2017 with a slew of interesting releases as a result of this recently forged alliance, so without further ado, let’s take a closer look.
Goatmoon – Stella Polaris
Any of you that know me from social media or in real life know that my hatred for folk metal burns with the fire of one thousand suns. Yet Goatmoon somehow manages to make folk-tinged, melodic black metal that is pretty darn awesome; the key to the formula is allowing the black metal parts to dominate, which makes the folk parts a neat respite from the band’s otherwise vicious yet catchy and surprisingly well-produced assault. Indeed, it is also worth noting that Goatmoon’s approach to the folk portions is serious in tone and not of the “let’s all swing our flagons of grog and polka around the hearth” variety. It’s a pleasant surprise to hear a band that can incorporate these influences into metal without making it sound completely ridiculous, and Stella Polaris just might be Goatmoon’s finest fusion of the two styles to date.
Förgjord – Uhrippu
Ah, Förgjord. I reviewed these guys’ previous album Sielunvihollinen on my old blog, and I’m happy to report that they’re just as hateful and scuzzy-sounding as I remember them being for album number three. Actually, Uhrippu doesn’t sound quite as raw as Sielunvihollinen, but that doesn’t mean Förgjord has by any means gone the polished production route; they’ve simply upgraded their sound from raw-as-hell to raw-as-all-get-out. They’ve also retained their characteristic songwriting weirdness, as evidenced by the spacey synth jam that closes out “Täyttymys,” or the epic swarm of bulldozer-in-a-beehive guitars and distorted bass that morphs into a hysterical black-punk freak-out session on “Tie, Totuus Ja Kuolema.” Förgjord may have ever-so-slightly cleaned up their sound, but they’re still one of the most unique entities in Finnish black metal.
White Death – s/t
White Death is another band on Werewolf Records pumping out catchy, melodic and well-produced black metal, but unlike with Goatmoon, there are zero folk influences to be found on this up-and-coming band’s self-titled debut full length. White Death sounds a lot like Satanic Warmaster, but with cleaner production and some icy tremolo-picked melodies that sound epic and dare I say uplifting, as opposed to the nonstop grimness that characterizes most of SW’s material. What White Death lack in originality they more than make up for with dedication to their craft; this is honestly one of the best second wave-style black metal albums I’ve heard recently, right up there with Goatblood’s debut and Bethlehem’s surprisingly awesome self-titled record. The melodies on this thing are just off the f’n hook. All of this is to say that White Death have a kick-ass first album on their hands and are definitely a band to keep an eye on.
Mordskog – XIII
Last but not least we have Mordskog, the only band in this roundup that doesn’t hail from Finland. The black metal this Mexican trio conjures forth on their first full length is about as traditional as it gets, all grim-as-shit tremolo riffs and obsidian atmospheres, played with a level of streamlined professionalism that’s rather rare for a debut album. Mordskog don’t bring anything to the table that you haven’t already heard before, but they do such a damn good job here that the dearth of new ideas isn’t really an issue. It also doesn’t hurt that the production is about as perfect for black metal as it gets, and an added perk is that you can actually understand what vocalist Lugubrem Acerbus is singing about; his vocal performance is surprisingly diverse, which helps give the songs some variation. I’m not sure if I like this quite as much as White Death’s debut, but its a close second so far in the 2017 black metal sweepstakes.