The True Werwolf – Devil Crisis (2020)REVIEW

Take me away from all of this death, these murmuring heads atop pikes with their weak and flapping neck muscles, dripping with odorous slime and engorged maggot flesh. The first strike of the cross and the blood-drunk renunciation beyond still whips at my mind, devouring my sleeping hours by way of bleeding candles and waxen-skinned martyr — Draped as if intended ancient erotica, a ‘revelation’ meant to entice only the most sadistic legion. The darkness in life and the supposed light thereafter today position themselves to enhance only the life of rats; The scurrying and scrounging cannibals unseen by their dulled truths in the dark are yet daimon, uncontrollable and infinitely willed within a lifetime, relentlessly gnawing. The unlucky chance of being a sentient-but-tamed hound today when rodentia spread pestilence, create storm, perpetuate greed and play to petty hatred as dominant instinct among men means the dogged spirit will inevitably collapse beneath the crisis of religious mass hypnosis without prevalent Satanic doctrine spread. From the high fantasy birth of Horna to the true spiritual awakening of Satanic Warmaster and countless projects beyond, few fellowes have come to define (lasting) doctrine and modus for ‘second wave’ black metal in Finland more than Graf Werwolf and compatriots starting in the mid-to-late 90’s. Alongside this musical innovation came a great cloud of enlightened Luciferian thought, a movement far less exclusive than many would think, and a prolific stream of releases spanning the last two decades. Why then, is 2020 the year that we are ready to receive the first Werwolf (or, The True Werwolf) full-length after eighteen years, six EPs, and countless compilations and demos? With the twilight of humanity in motion, the moon is just right!

Of course it pains the dead-lifting, beer-chugging side of black metal toughies a bit to admit but, any/all regional black metal renaissance enjoyed and distilled to its most powerful composers ends with a very small table full of ‘nerds’ or, folks in tune with many fantastic worlds and types of music that’d enable them to innovate amongst the dull-witted followers that’d pad out any perceived movement. Sure, I’m being a reductive asshole on some level but only the most inquisitive minds retain their strength for sustainable legacy. I’d additionally suggest that over the years through several interviews both Shatraug (Horna, Sargeist, etc.) and Werwolf aren’t particularly shy about being inspired by various forms of music, occult films, high fantasy literature, and even video games along the way. This is particularly evident when reaching the end of Side A on The True Werwolf‘s debut full-length ‘Devil Crisis’ and landing where Side B begins with “Chi No Namid”, a song that appears to recreate the opening to Castlevania: Rondo of Blood, German voice-over and all, before using the melody of “Bloody Tears” for the actual song. Side B then continues with “0373”, sourcing its lyrical themes and melody from a very cool Sunsoft/NES deep cut from Journey to Silius (1990). As a nerd to sits there on YouTube for at least a half hour each day listening to some kind of old video game music these were awesome references to find in the middle of ‘Devil Crisis’, despite my surprise making it clear that I’d never heard the ‘C.N.N./0373’ EP back in 2013 or necessarily followed this project beyond its direct relation to Satanic Warmaster.

In fact ‘Devil Crisis’ itself was in development between 2012-2018 and features a couple of songs that’d land during that process, the bulk of them featuring as live versions on the ‘Wolf Metal Armageddon’ live album/compilation from last year. These studio recorded versions all feature longtime session drummer Grond (Satanist Terrorist) as well as additional keyboards/synth from Trollhorn (Moonsorrow) and V-Khaoz (Vargrav) tending towards melodic black metal with prominent  synth feature on songs that call for atmosphere or melodic enhancement. I’d assumed ‘Devil Crisis’ would more-or-less sound like leftover Satanic Warmaster ideas, something I’d personally welcome either way, and though the melodic guitar work is recognizable as Werwolf‘s own, these compositions are both related to and freed from the themes of his other projects. It is a strange trip but nothing completely unexpected, a pure and passionate black metal record that pulls back to the 90’s in spirit without resorting to any sort of plain Norwegian worship or glazed-over war metal strikes along the way.

“My Journeys Among the Battlemoon” is a staple song, or at least a long in development piece within Werwolf‘s discography, originally featured as a 10+ minute track on the ‘Unholy Warriors’ demo/rehearsal tape and later included in slightly less raw form on the ‘Battlemoon‘ (2011) EP. Looking back on the earlier years of the project through this song emphasizes just how raw Satanic Warmaster were to begin with as most fans considered this project a more ‘ambient’ storage of ideas by comparison. Kicking the album off with this energetic piece builds a lot of momentum for Side A, quickly oozing into the most immersive song for my own taste, “Thy Deviant”. Here arises the most interesting conundrum when describing a record such as this, it is distinctly Werwolf‘s hand driving it and though he’d not necessarily created this style of guitar work it is something the artist is known for that bleeds into a few of his best known projects. Beyond that, ‘melodic’ and mention of Emperor or even Vargrav don’t necessarily do the song complete justice though the shoe fits. If I were to guess who’d hit the keys for this song, it might actually be V-Khaoz and perhaps Trollhorn on the circular, ethereal twinkling of “The Witch of My Heart”; A wild guess, anyhow. These were coincidentally my favorite pieces outside of the video game inspired slide into Side B.

Although I like the lyrics and the general expression of the song, I didn’t feel like “Magick Fire” necessarily fit neatly in with the rest of ‘Devil Crisis’. At first I’d assumed it was a juiced cover of an 80’s black metal band that I’d somehow missed and I suppose that is both a compliment and a suggestion of why it doesn’t work as an album closer. That’d be my only gripe. ‘Devil Crisis’ is a fine record that not only brings some inventive ambiance and bold style to the table but it also communicates a deeper thread of the artist’s personality. I’d actually found myself treating it the same way I would video game music, spacing out a bit when the more prominent melodies lead and often forgetting to apply a critical ear at all. I appreciate any set of songs that can tear me out of my husk, even just slightly. A high recommendation for this one, specifically the non-gatefold version of the LP if only because I love the artwork (depicted).

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Artist The True Werwolf
Type Full-length
Released February 28, 2020
BUY & LISTEN on Werewolf Records’ Bandcamp! The True Werwolf on Facebook
Genre Black Metal,
Melodic Black Metal,
Atmospheric Black Metal

High recommendation. 4.0/5.0

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