The big two German regions for Pagan and Viking Metal are Thuringia and Bavaria, so it doesn’t come very surprising that WOLFCHANT are from one of those two, in their case me home state Bavaria. Despite being a huge fan of the style, I have not heard the first two albums of the band for some reason, so I can’t compare their third effort “Determined Damnation”, but what I hear here is Pagan Metal with fairly strong Power Metal and at times certain Death Metal influence, so technically an intriguing mix, isn’t it?
Having been produced by former GRAVE DIGGER and now REBELLION guitarist Uwe Lulis, one might think that the root of all Power Metal in WOLFCHANT’s music, obviously there is no way for me to say for sure, but it’s not completely out of question, right? Anyways, in the end it doesn’t matter where the influence is coming from, if it all gels well and forms a good whole, no? One of the potential pitfalls in this genre is that bands may move too close to immediate catchiness and miss the level of substance required to keep the listener close for a longer amount of time and WOLFCHANT’s third at times teeters on the brink of losing this grip.
Over big parts of the album, Lokhi’s gruff vocals are the only element really tying them to the Pagan Metal genre, while the all prevalent catchiness is something that definitely will draw in the listener at first, but leaves doubts about the longevity of the song material’s appeal. And “Determined Damnation” is off to a somewhat slow start, with an intro and an ok first track, before “Until The End” technically is the first highlight with its more varied approach, bordering on Power Metal with rough vocals, if, well, if there were not these extremely cheap sounding computer hand claps inserted that really sound so artificial and off...
But once you get past that and also accept that the Bavarians went more for gripping you right away instead of letting you discover the details, the strengths of this album are unmistakable. The slow-paced title track is epic without end, with some excellent clear vocals complementing the rough delivery of Lokhi, while “In War” is basically highly melodic Metal, just with harsh vocals over it, immensely catchy and also with nice intricacies. WOLFCHANT utilize the contrast between harsh and clear vocals to its fullest extent on “Fate Of The Fighting Man”, where the verse is gruff and the chorus is clear, whereas the guitars have a clear traditional Heavy Metal touch. Three of the twelve songs actually have German lyrics, which need some getting used to due to the harshness of the language itself, “Auf Blut Gebaut” is the best of that trio, which even accelerates all the way to blastbeats, which are the clear exception to the rule on “Determined Damnation”, but “Schwerter Der Erde” is on the other end of the scale and fails to ignite or impress. Now I had mentioned a more or less strong Power Metal influence in WOLFCHANT’s sound and if you need any proof, closing “Under The Wolves Banner” and bonus track “Devour”, with exclusively clear vocals, the former could very well stand on any MAJESTY album, while the latter speeds along at times frenetic tempo.
All in all “Determined Damnation” is a hard album to judge due to its nature, so I kind of have to be a little careful in my rating, as this catchiness may wear off with time, thus limiting the extended replay factor, but if you like the style and don’t have a problem with influences from the more traditional and melodic subgenres of Metal, then WOLFCHANT’s third could very well work for you.
(Online November 30, 2009)