This year has been quite special for the Viking Metal genre as some of the most renowned bands representing it have released their new albums. Brand new ENSLAVED, THYRFING, HELHEIM and AMON AMARTH – is there anything more a fan of dragon-ships and mead could wish for as regards music (well ok, perhaps EINHERJER re-joining their forces)? And now, in the middle of these exceptional releases storm we get an album made by an unknown American ensemble called WOLVES OF HATE. How good should such an album be in order to surpass the quality of the ones made by the above-mentioned bands? Is it possible at all to achieve it? Not in the case of the American trio, however, their music offer is not either that bad.
“Battle Hymns And War Songs”. Sounds promising doesn’t it? In fact, the amount of epic sublimity delivered with the work does not live up to the expectations that its title arouses. There are a few keyboard moments being a musical evidence for Americans’ affinity mainly towards BATHORY’s epic achievements, but unfortunately these are overwhelmed by guitar riffs of quality which does not make you bewildered. It is a pity for the synth-featured passages are at the same time the highlight of this album. I am pretty sure that if American musicians had been more generous with offering us sounds of such character their piece would have deserved far more attention from the Metal audience.
As I stated several lines before, though, the situation is not that dreadful and things are not completely out of control. It must be admitted that the heavy and dull sounding guitar parts, which make a firm base of WOLVES OF HATE’s music do have their charm. There is a lot of old-school Black/Death Metal feeling in the way this instrument sounds. Quite obviously the grim atmosphere summoned thanks to the six strings goes perfectly with the themes recounted in the lyrical plane. Moreover, already when I first listened to this record I had certain slight associations with groups like AMON AMARTH – several riff sequences – and EINHERJER – the overall impression of this release resembling in terms of production and sound quality of Norwegians’ “Aurora Borealis”. In a broader perspective, however, the guitars might seem somewhat monotonous and tedious. No poetry is to be found here, regrettably, it is rather a mere craftsman work, which at this point of their career allows them barely to hope for some positive prospects for the future. A bit more creativity, though, would actually ensure them a successful Viking raid across the world.
The same thing might be applied as far as drumming is concerned. To say that the machine programmed by Peter Slivkanch sounds unexciting is too little. While it somehow fits the march-like character of some songs, I can not get rid of the feeling of the drum department being simply blend and colourless. Recruiting a real drummer would be a welcomed reinforcement for this American hird.
After summing up all the pros and cons I can say that “Battle Hymns And War Songs” is a release recommended for those Viking Metal fans who are most longing for overseas dragon-ship journeys and who simultaneously do not really mind that the skills in sailing WOLVES OF HATE have mastered so far do not enable them to travel further than the waters surrounding their homeland. After all, even a poor subsitute for a real adventure might be at times satisfying. Hopefully their second attempt will prove that they are capable of producing something far more creative than "Battle Hymns And War Songs".
(Online December 4, 2008)