WOLFHEART are a band that have been making considerable waves on the melodic death metal scene in the brief four years since their inception, and certainly not without good reason. In the course of three albums these immensely talented Finns have crafted a sonic signature that is harmoniously brutal and hypnotically atmospheric, moving between flowing, savage riffs and entrancing, gentle passages that make inspired use of instruments such as acoustic guitars, keyboards and, most noticeably, the cello. And it’s a formula the band have perfected further on their third album Tyhjyys (which is Finnish for “emptiness”), cranking up the atmospheric aspects of their sound to create epic, mesmerising songs that evoke images of savage Nordic battles and swirling blizzards on bleak, snow drenched mountains.
The band take their time kicking off the album with opener Shores of The Lake Simpele, an intense, atmospheric opener that begins with soft, maudelin passages on an acoustic guitar before slowly layering on the instruments and Viking-esque chants in a way that serves perfectly as both an introduction to the album and a statement of sonic intent by the band. They then tear into Boneyard, an epic (that word is going to come up frequently in this review) seven minute Goliath of a track symphonically tinged with choirs and laced with soft, haunting passages of acoustic guitar.
The acoustic passages are a recurring and welcome presence throughout the album, bringing to mind IN FLAMES‘ The Jester Race and DARK TRANQUILLITY‘s The Gallery (WOLFHEART have clearly chosen their influences well) but more woven into the band’s core sound, both presenting a nice contrast with the heavier parts of their music and adding an extra sonic dimension when used in unison. This is most evident on album highlight The Flood, a wonderful example of all the elements of all the band’s sound coming together in a way that showcases everything they do well. The acoustic passages, this time laced with piano, are slow, melancholy and beautiful, even more so when the wistful flute joins midway through the song. They both contrast and merge brilliantly with the song’s heavier sections so the flow between them always feels natural, and the merging of thudding electric notes and acoustic plucking at the end make for a wonderful denouement. Tuomas Saukkonen and Mika Lammassaari’s guitar work on this song is fantastic, as it is on the entire album, moving between mid-paced and simple yet incredibly cinematic, and more fast-paced, complex and just plain awesome, and towards the end of the song the cello joins in, creating a complete picture of the epic sonic force that is WOLFHEART.
The cello is another fantastic highlight of WOLFHEART’s sound, its smoothness forming a wonderful, blanketing underlay for the plucking of guitar strings, and the epic atmosphere it lends becomes a huge part of the album’s character, particularly on songs like the majestic World on Fire, the sinister, progressively tinged The Rift, and the demonic sounding Call of the Winter.
And reigning over all of the wonderful instrumentation is Tuomas’ vocals. His approach is a pretty straightforward growl but its simplicity works against the backdrop of the instruments and really allows the atmosphere they create to come through, so the complete effect is like listening to Nordic warrior shouting in the middle of a snowstorm.
In summary, WOLFHEART blend excellent musicianship and a keen sense of dynamics to create an album of paradoxes. Their music is savage and entrancing, ethereal and heavy. It is, in other words, fantastic melodic death metal.
Tyhjyys is out now via Spinefarm Records.
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