Here’s a tempting treat for anyone whose tastes linger at the blackened end of the melodic death metal spectrum – Amon Amarth, Kataklysm, Immortal. Yes, you say, but I’ve listened to all that Viking death metal stuff a thousand times, moved on, had a few personal revivals, and moved on again. Oh, you cynic, I say. Because Wolveguard’s first EP is all done with more than a little thought and finesse beyond the basic formula. There’s a very nice melancholic feel and an olde worlde touch that provides these Texans (ie: shockingly nowhere near Sweden – which might come as a surprise to anyone who actually listen to this) with an undeniably fresh edge. Yes, we have some very Hegg-ish vocals and those familiar haunting, mesmerising lead guitars to hook you in. But Wolvenguard are a little darker still and arguably use a more blackened sound than the Viking flag carriers to create a distinct atmosphere.
EP title track Elemental Reclamation is probably the most straightforward of the three – using the classic beard-windmilling-style circular riffs as a base layer that whips up into a fury as the longships crash headlong into the shore of the battle frenzied chorus. Vangrimst is perhaps the most interesting track with a more folky feel (albeit maintaining the pummelling approach and familiar riff patterns) which brings home the Wolvenguard uniqueness with a cleanly sung chorus that stands tall as an ominous ode to a long world-weary warrior. The track also finishes with a cool twist to the melody that suggest these guys have more to offer than just a handful of riffs and a few hooky leads.
In fact, all three tracks stand alone as proof that melodic death metal may have a new contender in town, quickly overcoming any doubts I had based on the slightly predictable band name. With just one EP it feels like Wolvenguard has already proved its pedigree – what more can I say than: when is the album coming, guys?
(8/10 Reverend Darkstanley)