For whatever reason, it always takes me a little while to get into Wolvhammer albums. When I first heard 2012's The Obsidian Plains, I thought it was fine, but it didn't stick with me. A few months later, after being reintroduced to it by Metal Bandcamp's own Andy Osborn, it quickly became one of my favorites.
The same happened when I first got my hands on their new one, Clawing into Black Sun. I was a little let down on first listen, but after three or four playthroughs, I can't get enough. My best guess is that my brain says, "Oh good, new USBM," but Wolvhammer doesn't quit fit next to my go-to USBM bands. They might share geography with Woe and Deafheaven, but they're better suited to a Sex Pistols kind of mood than a Wolves in the Throne Room kind of mood.
Like their last album, Clawing into Black Sun still delivers their sludgy, doomy, punky version of black metal, but if anything, they've turned the snarling punk up a few notches. They largely eschew blast beats and waves of tremolo-picked guitars for doomier sounding riffs, like in "Slaves to the Grind," but when Adam Clemans snarls, "True redemption is out of reach / When you're living your life as a fucking leech!" there's more than a little Johnny Rotten in there. This is less frosty, Norwegian bleakness than it is fighting in an alley or spitting on pictures of the royal family. (Yeah, that doesn't make a lot of sense for a USBM band, but work with me here. I'm writing this on Independence Day here in the U.S., so a ridiculously out-of-date anti-royalty vibe seems appropriate.)
Vocalist Adam Clemans pulls the neat trick of having his growling and snarling vocals still be largely understandable without printed lyrics. And they're just so damn fun. Try not chanting along with "BLACK! BLACK! BLACK!" in the title track. There are also some more great gang vocals in the closing track, "A Light That Doesn't Yield." I know from the band's Facebook page that they're pretty proud of this track, and that pride is well deserved. It's a nearly nine-minute, slow burner of a song, but it's worth every second.
I don’t know if Clawing into Black Sun will ultimately become my favorite Wolvhammer album or not, but maybe that’s the wrong way of looking at it. Maybe The Obsidian Plains scratches an itch for something a little more complex, whereas Clawing into Black Sun is a more immediate, more visceral thrill. Either way, give this whole album the multiple spins it deserves and make up your own mind.
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