Monday, February 25, 2013

Death Wolf - II: Black Armoured Death

Death Wolf
II: Black Armoured Death
Century Media Records/E.M.I. Music Australia

When Devils Whorehouse emerged onto the scene with their debut E.P. release ‘The Howling’ (Released in 2000 through Regain Records), it was pretty clear where the band’s influences laid by the name they decided upon. Essentially we’re talking about a band that worshiped everything Danzig/Samhain/Misfits related, albeit with a touch of black metal thrown into the mix to give the band their own identity.
Over the course of the next three releases after their debut (2003’s ‘Revelation Unorthodox’, 2008’s ‘Werewolf’ E.P. and 2009’s ‘Blood & Ashes’), it was clear that Devils Whorehouse’s sound was continually evolving. So it came as no surprise that after eleven years of change and continual reinvention, the band considered their current sound quite removed from the one they started out with, and decided the time was right to have a change of name to reflect this. And as of 2011, the Swedish (Norrköping based) outfit formally known as Devils Whorehouse became Death Wolf. As expected, Death Wolf’s self titled debut (Released in mid 2011 through Regain Records) wasn’t all that far removed from where they last left things with Devils Whorehouse, which meant that while fans were pleased with the results, the band didn’t attract many newcomers with their new release.
It’s been two years since then, and after signing up with the mighty Century Media Records, Death Wolf (Who comprise of vocalist Valentin ‘Maelstrom’ Mellström, guitarist Marcus ‘Makko’ Bäckbrant, Abruptum/Marduk bassist Patrick ‘Morgan’ Håkansson and drummer Mikael ‘Hrafn’ Karlsson) has returned with their sophomore effort ‘II: Black Armoured Death’. And as expected, it’s business as usual for the horror punk/metal outfit.
If I were to be honest, Devils Whorehouse/Death Wolf has never been what I would consider a truly remarkable or original sounding band. And in that respect, ‘II: Black Armoured Death’ reinforces the point. The opening track ‘Noche De Brujas’ is a good example of where the band’s strengths and weakness really come to the fore, and the perfect track for newcomers to decide the merits of the band’s output as a whole. Musically, the band’s Danzig influences are still quite evident, albeit with a bit more of a gothic influence than usual. But on the vocal front, Mellström still struggles to deliver a convincing performance. His half growled vocals are done well for at least half the time, but when he attempts to sing something a little more on the cleaner side of things on the lower end, or a little higher than his range allows, it sounds too uneven and hard on the ears. Outside of the vocal issues, the song itself is quite flat and unremarkable, which in part can be blamed on the plodding pace of the song as a whole.
The follow-up track ‘World Serpent’ on the other hand is a far stronger effort. The faster pace, and Mellström’s energy out front really exudes a power that is largely absent when the band slows things down.
And herein is the problem with Death Wolf’s latest release. When the band attempts to create something a bit more atmospheric and moody, they fail on almost every level. While the band do conjure up something a little interesting on ‘Lords Of Putrefaction’ (Well, at least on half the vocals) and the cover of Death In June’s ‘Little Black Angel’, tracks such as ‘Night Stalker’, the dreary chant based ‘Luciferian Blood Covenant’, the plodding ‘Death Wolf March’ and ‘Rothenburg’ fail to excite one bit.
Where the band’s strengths lie is on the faster tracks, where punk, gothic influenced rock and black metal are fused together to create a vibrant hybrid sound. The best examples of this can be found on the d-beat blast of ‘Sudden Bloodletter’, ‘Malice Striker’, ‘Black Armoured Death’ and the catchy ‘Snake Mountain’.
Death Wolf has never been known for their originality, and that’s fair enough. I can understand that, and I don’t have a problem with that. What I do have a problem with is their unwillingness to capitalise on their strengths and deliver a consistent and enjoyable album. Because of that, ‘II: Black Armoured Death’ will only appeal to the small number of diehard Devils Whorehouse fans that aren’t already aware that the band had changed their name to Death Wolf.

For more information on Death Wolf, check out - http://www.deathwolf.net/

© Justin Donnelly