From archaic longing to fantastical worship, black metal has, since its inception, been subjected to repetitive and inhuman experimentation. Wolvhammer, an outfit hailing from the American Midwest, craft a strange old brew that is both familiar and alien, like a soul adrift between the realms of mortality and the celestial. Following their prior two full-length releases, 2010’s Black Marketeers of World War III and 2011’s The Obsidian Plains, Wolvhammer christens 2014 with their emotive, sacrificial offering, Clawing into Black Sun. As its title suggests, this album is torturous, guiding you face first into the dirt through eight tracks of blackened agony.

Wolvhammer move their music with a near entrancing tempo, producing a record of muted ferocity. The speed is never breakneck, riding blast beats that purr menacingly behind downtrodden guitars, shrieking vocals, and an unmistakably woeful atmosphere. “The Desantification,” for example, is an exercise in explosive, yet shifting wrath, allowing its first three minutes to draw and quarter you before lunging blade-first in a dazzling, crimson splay that rains like a drowning sorrow. Sorrow is a word that best describes the majority of Clawing into Black Sun, as it sews post-punk gloom and punk-infused bursts of rage into its scarred and weathered frame.

Each of Clawing into Black Sun's eight pieces -- even the brief, ghostly exhale “Lethe” -- builds to form a work that is religiously dedicated to emotional deconstruction and pious mockery. It flirts with a refreshing sound that is too often bogged down by the tired aesthetics and styles attributable to black metal. “Slaves to the Grime” is packaged as your usual irreligious anthem, throwing around words like “sheep” with confidence, yet callously unaware that the flock has long ago been torn asunder by wolves. The album is dominantly thoughtful, allowing its ideas room to breathe; it is simply disappointing when anti-religion is used for simple genre trapping among a host of bluntly honest songs.

Clawing into Black Sun rises to monolithic proportions in its final tracks, allowing what few blemishes the album has to be swiftly ignored. “Death Division” is the album’s best song, a piece unmatched in ugly beauty that the rest of the record cannot rival. By its end, you will find your eyes on the verge of being self-gouged, as the elegant menace of the penultimate track’s final moments bleed seamlessly into the finale, “A Light That Doesn't Yield.” A moving expanse, this track is that aforementioned soul caught in the gravity of life and death. Magnetized to life’s decadence yet pulled towards the natural beauty of non-existence, this light yields itself only to the constructed awe of its closing melodies.

Clawing into Black Sun is available now on Profound Lore Records.

— Bruce Hardt



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