Tuesday, 28 December 2021

ALBUM REVIEW: Wolftooth, "Blood & Fire"

 By: Richard Maw
Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 03/12/2021
Label: Napalm Records

“Blood & Iron” CD//DD//LP track listing:
1). Ahab
2). Hellespont
3). Blood & Iron
4). A King’s Land
5). Broken Sword
6). The Voyage
7). Winter White
8). Garden of Hesperides
9). The Mare
The Review:
Indiana's Wolfooth are back with their third album. Now signed to the mighty Napalm Records, it appears that the band may follow the oft-referenced metal lore of 'making it' with the third release. Of course, that knowledge refers to commercial as well as creative success, and seems to be based around Metallica, Iron Maiden, Def Leppard, Slayer, Anthrax, Sepultura and so on... but not around bands from recent history.
Regardless of what may or may not happen to the band from here on out, they have international dates booked (Desertfest, London et. al.) plus real label support behind them so, they might just be the next big thing- with a small 'b' as this is traditonal metal mixed with stoner doom in the vein of The Sword's early work. This isn't a radio friendly unit shifter. This is for real metalheads.
Having reviewed, loved and bought both previous Wolftooth albums, I had high hopes for this record- I see Wolftooth as modern-day renegades fighting alongside the likes of Visigoth for real metal- yes, I know, I know; I'm a metal loser. Opener “Ahab” quickly nestles into the groove that the band have made their own for the previous records; this time referencing Moby Dick for epic story telling, referencing The Sword for riffs and marking a continuation of the sound that has brought them this far.
The material here is stellar; “Hellespont” is all glorious harmonies, glorious subject matter and glorious playing. Great track. Musically, we are in classic Wolftooth territory; epic, majestic: metal. That could also accurately describe the title track. “Blood & Iron” is Irish legend done right- judging by the band members surnames, a couple may have some interest in the history and folklore of the Emerald Isle. Even if they don't, this is a great homage to a great hero.
As the record progresses, there are flashes of Thin Lizzy/Celtic riff stylings, lots of chugging riffs and some really magical music. Whether it is the shuffling rhythms of “A King's Land” or the more speedy and aggressive attack of “Broken Sword” there is just so much to enjoy here. The latter is particularly strong and it's no surprise that this was chosen as an advance track. It picks up where “Sword of My Father” left off and just evokes images of Conan, Elric and any other number of mythical pulp heroes.
Wolftooth do escapism very well; this is pure enjoyment, delivering pure entertainment and the band chooses to dwell in the realms of myth, legend and fantasy. It's a wise choice and the bread and butter of many metal bands- but done exceedingly well here. The heavy hits keep coming; “Garden of Hesperides” is mighty, “Winter White” is weighty as hell. There are no bad tracks and if you aren't too keen on one riff, well, another one you will like will be along in a second!
The riffs are massive, the vocals crystal clear, the sound is warm, the mix is... unusual. The drums are too quiet. Play the record on headphones, they're quiet. Play it on a streaming device while other things are going on (you're cooking or typing or doing pretty much anything other than listening intently to the music) and the drums are just too low in the mix. Is this a minor gripe? Not exactly. It is important, but not a deal breaker. The drums sound great. The guitars sound great. It's just that the drums should be the loudly beating heart and instead they are like a backing track (in a bad way) to the guitars. The record is also quite quiet- but this is better than it being clipped and brickwalled, for sure. These are minor criticisms but I find them a little frustrating, as both prior albums sounded unique to the band and quirky in a good way- they also fairly leapt out of the speakers (I bought the vinyl and CD of each- as I have of this album)
The album does sound better when it is turned up loud; I bet it sounded superb on the studio speakers. I warmed to the mix after a  few listens, so give it some time. There is no way I'm going to let a mix or production gripe let me judge an album too harshly (to illustrate this point, Manilla Road are one of my favourite bands, ...And Justice For All is one of my most listened to records etc.). The most important thing here is not the production or mix or artwork or anything other than the music itself. And the music is uniformly excellent.
By the time of “The Mare”, Wolftooth have made a pretty powerful statement- it closes the album out with a solid slab of metallic mythology. The final stretch is particularly good. There we have it; “Blood & Iron” is not as immediate as the previous two Wolftooth records, but it is a grower with hidden depths and full of all the best of the band's musical traits. It has great riffs, songs and playing while the vocals work perfectly with clear storytelling throughout.
If this is the album that does see the band get much wider recognition, then it will be well deserved. They've now made three excellent metal albums and absolutely deserve the credit coming their way. From the moment I listened to their first album, I knew I'd love this band. This album only makes me love them more.
“Blood & Iron” is available HERE

Band info: bandcamp || facebook