Enriched by the cawing hordes of husks, villainies intensify at the maw of Hell. — In the realm of dark extremism, or, the exhaustion of vaguely counter-cultural music meant to disempower the average Christian moralistic goon with horror and disgust worthy of debauching their thoughtless commodified existence, there are few greater honorifics than to be a reviled and infamous creature. There -should- be some pride taken in being the fabled beast to shake loose the diarrhea from the minds of folks who fear the unknown more than they’d ever investigate it and there is no better way to sustain said stature than within high fantasy girded Satanism. With such long periods of consideration now stretching between Finnish black metal musician Werwolf‘s contributions to the Satanic Warmaster canon, and so many imitations breaking ground year-over-year, it has become easier to forget exactly where the standard for the underground melodic black metal vernacular today was built and exactly by whom. I’d argue that a quick wheel across the catalog of the artist promises to be satiating and steeling enough in reminder of a certain distinctly Finnish sect of devotee for the ages but I’d have to also append this thought with the suggestion that this long-awaited sixth full-length album, ‘Aamongandr‘, both properly recalls and adds to the enthroned’s infamy.

We begin in the deep-southern Karelian wilds, a short ravenflight from the dreaded glare of Main Road 6 toward Lappeenranta, wherein Satanic Warmaster formed in 1998 by way of the then Black Order Productions head Nazgul, who was at the time best known for his work in lesser-known Shatargat and certainly as the vocalist for Horna‘s first three albums, sticking with the band until his first full-length as Satanic Warmaster (‘Strength & Honor‘, 2001) released to ringing choirs of exceptional hatred. If you don’t mind a personal anecdote, I am a huge fan of ‘Haudankylmyyden Mailla‘ as it remains one of the more important and convincing Finnish black metal records from that era for my taste, and it’d been the vocals on “Hymni Tuomiopäivänä” that’d first captured my attention per this specific vocalist/artists work. Of course Satanic Warmaster was something else entirely, even if it’d been likewise spiritually indebted to early Burzum but differentiated by way of accessing melodic phrases and production values one could also hear in certain Graveland records. It’ll have to read as just another record today, though, as the project found their refinement and signature on the brilliant ‘Opferblut‘ (2003), wherein a quickly sleekened and personalized version of this sound complimented former Horna bandmate Shatraug‘s own solo work in Sargeist (see: ‘Satanic Black Devotion‘). In hindsight each record offers quick reference for what many consider vital identity for Finnish black metal going forward. The argument for the influential nature of Nazgul‘s own work was largely made by 2003 but compounded with the somewhat more raw third album (‘Carelian Satanic Madness‘, 2005). Beyond that point Nazgul (soon Werwolf and various other titles) busied himself with other projects, reissues, splits, and minor releases which collected a plethora of additional work done around the time of those first three records.

Werwolf mode. — The argument for the sustaining value of the artists work was well-made during the five year break (2005-2010) between albums. There’ll be no need to course through the details of the rawest return (‘Nachzehrer‘, 2010) and the majestic remedy (‘Fimbulwinter‘, 2014) as these are works which compound the successes of the past within ideological refinement. For my own taste ‘Opferblut‘ yet sustains as the masterpiece the other Satanic Warmaster works build upon and this makes it hard to sit with more polished versions of those ideas to start, as sharp as ‘Fimbulwinter‘ and now ‘Aamongandr‘ each are. The only path forward, then, as I see it is to approach this new record not as the flagship of old legacy but a contribution the artist finds vital and necessary in 2022 alongside new releases from several other projects. The first single, “Bafomet” speaks to this as resounding signature fanfare, announcing the return of a sound which, I suppose must find a level of interest to sustain the irreplicable factor available to this band’s good name. The swaying, wrathful boast of the guitar work at full speed is reanimating enough, surely inspiring many a conductor-handed black metal nerd a moment of fixation to start and… soon any skepticism begins to fade in increments as the album continues to worm its way through six of the more exacting pieces of Satanic high fantasy black metal lore we’ve gotten from the artist in some time.

“Dukes Ride (Ride of the Spectral Hooves)” features a brilliant streak of Moonsorrow-esque aether leaking keys, electro-blackened fugue, and even a bit of Old Man’s Child scrambling in its violently socked-at pace per the finale of the song. This’d been the piece to immerse, the first one to close the door on the charm of older works for a moment and bask in this vivid grip upon the essence of the late 90’s/early 2000’s bombast repurposed into a nowadays Satanic Warmaster song. “Berzerk Death” arrives with a run-on guitar melody which is veritably cinematic, a differently keyboard-tipped blade which strikes grandeur unto sentimentality as its verses develop, still boiling mad in every refrain. To be fair this will appear a very typical melodic arc per modern underground black metal guitar work of a certain shade but we find a complete statement built around its dramatic consonance rather than a single run-on sentence. At this point we’ve clearly gotten all of the boxes checked in mind that this is not a reimagined face of the band but a continuation of work in this style refined even beyond the high fidelity warming ‘Fimbulwinter‘ received eight years ago.

Side B peers in with “The Eye of Satan” again emphasizing the vital addition of keyboard work which, yes, turns out be from maestro Sorvali himself. In fact it is worth noting that much of the crew that’d played on ‘Devil Crisis‘, the most recent The True Werwolf record, also feature here yet this album manages an entirely different feeling and render. I’ll spare the play-by-play from there beyond “Darkness… Triumphator” being an infinitely repeatable piece that I’d left on repeat for at least a few hours after the first spin had completed. Needless to say we’ve gotten something appropriately Satanic Warmaster from ‘Aamongandr’ in terms of the core rhythmic focus, vocals and themes yet all of this rounded by warm, boldest fidelity which is rich with keyboard work that manages to enhance most every moment. You’d think this would sap the impact of the music yet a more dynamic capture imbued with beauteous details only enhances the melodic and sometimes austere voice of the project. It’d all captivated me just long enough to nearly forget my duties as a snob who wouldn’t see past ‘Opferblut‘ ’til now in terms of this discography, yet I’ve gone on reaching for this album more often than expected per its inherently repeatable running order and glistening render. A high recommendation.

High recommendation. (82/100)

Rating: 8 out of 10.
LABEL(S):Werewolf Records,
Hell’s Headbangers
RELEASE DATE:December 30th, 2022

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