I think that it is an extremely badly kept secret that AMON AMARTH are one of my all-time favourite bands. Well, their countrymen of WULFGAR might not be able to topple them from their throne, but they are steadfastly following in their footsteps, taking me by complete surprise on their debut effort “With Gods And Legends Unite” (and no matter how often I read this title, it reads wrong every single time…). Not because they have managed to give the sound a unique and new twist, but despite showing obvious influence by the Northmen around Johan Hegg, the melodies and riffs bear a similar majestic and powerful presence that just captured me and took my heart by storm.
Founded in 2004 only, the quintet Augustsson, Mattisson, Lindqvist, Löfstedt and Lindskog released two demos in 2006, before signing with young Finnish label Kampas Records to unleash their 12-track debut upon unsuspecting Metal-kind, Viking-infused Death Metal of the melodic, epic kind, more than once evoking images of the drakkars cutting through the churning waters of the North Sea and swords clanging against shields, the blood of the enemies drenching the ground in blood, colouring the snow crimson…
Eh, where was I? Oh yes, the WULFGAR review… Sorry, I got sidetracked there for a moment or two… “Cleansed By Fire” unites all that I had mentioned before into sound, double-bass driving the band forward, majestic riffing and great melodies, crowned by Emil "Ewil" Augustsson’s bellow of a voice, which does not quite have the same expressiveness as Hegg (maybe because his voice overall is higher), but nevertheless rounding off the song greatly, but they also fully convince when they go for the heavier, slower direction as on “Weapons Of Flesh” or “Wendigo”.
Some people will now argue that the Swedes might stand too close to the above-mentioned AMON AMARTH, but the difference in the voice (Ewil also uses some higher squeals here and there) and the slightly less power take care of that, same goes for the riffing, which at least to me is easily distinguishable from the mighty role models. Sure, a “He Stands Alone” bears a certain resemblance, but hey, if the song is so darn good, I don’t really care and neither should you, with the great mix of faster and more brooding passages, going along with the great melodies that will stick to your memory.
It may just be me, but WULFGAR really struck a chord with me, epic, melodic, yet powerful and atmospheric, for a debut album pretty darn impressive, I would say, as I could not really make out any fillers, but several killers, so I am already eagerly awaiting to hear how these guys will continue to develop! On to Valhalla we sail!
(Online October 24, 2007)