Frankly everything about French band Wolok seems a bit fucked up and not just the music either. The trio’s 3rd full length turned up here with a page of what could well be lyrics with letters missed out all through it. Still, easy enough to work out especially when one looks at their Facebook page and sees descriptors of mental and physical health collapse and addictions. Whether that is true to life or just to get across the feelings one may get from listening to their somewhat harrowing and tortured music is uncertain but then again these both could very much go hand in hand. Life is hard and some find it increasingly difficult to endure and survive; perhaps if you want happiness and roses it’s best avoiding this one straight away and going and looking for something a bit more cheerful. I found myself posing the question just the other day of whether dealing with mental turmoil and anguish via extremes be it music, art, drugs or films is self-destructive or cathartic? I think a bit of both is the answer and although pushing yourself to the limits is not everyone’s ideas of a coping mechanism this could well be soundtrack that you are looking for if you did decide you wanted to go down that path.
So musically what we have is a form of turgid and nasty blackened doom. The five tracks are pretty uncompromising in structure but not without melody as the crawl through the corners of the brain and randomly open places you may want to leave closed. The vocals from man of many bands Lhükkmer’thz are horrible gibbering, alien, mangled rasps that truly sound inhuman and may strike the listener like nails down blackboard. They definitely unsettle and put you on edge as the music churns slowly away wringing out the doom and hopelessness on songs like ‘Stolid.’ But it is not all about them as other bi-polar voices, speeches and ramblings are sampled from who knows where into the tracks, some French others English. These give the whole thing a real feeling of strange atmosphere and are tricks one may expect from music of a DSBM like orientation. They work wonders for me though as without I may well find the music just too one dimension in its main structure. The other thing that stands out although we don’t encounter it until the opening notes of second track ‘Bitter Swill’ is the really odd keyboard sound which to me could have escaped from some sort of strange and nasty 80’s sci-fi film. They bring a weird mind expansion with them and perhaps in the latter stages of the album some errant psychedelia, it’s all very odd but also strangely calming compared to other things going on. One has to wonder what was being ingested in the studio especially when accompanied by bilious black spewed vocals that remind a little of dearly departed Killjoy of Necrophagia coughing a lung up. No mirth really but plenty of dry heaves here and also some screams sampled from your favourite torture porn movie. It’s definitely bi-polar in approach flowing from wretched and hateful into calm acoustic tranquillity in one fluid moment. The mania is strangely addictive.
Longest number ‘Deceptive Serpents’ has a woman talking about what sounds like some sort of medical experiments she has been subjected to as rancid, blackened doom builds around gurgling vocals. I am again thinking along the same lines as earlier as it reminds a bit of The Ravenous and Blood Delirium their soundtrack to the nefarious August Underground film. In a word “ugh.” About half way through though those very odd hallucinatory keyboards come in again and everything goes distinctly lysergic. There’s more strange sampled talking to try and wrap your head around too. Thumping discordance and experimental sonic abuse pepper ‘Neural Misfire’ which as a listener you may well be encountering. As Hawkwind once said DO NOT PANIC but it’s somewhat difficult not doing so and listening to this in isolation is highly recommended. I’m oddly reminded of the beat of industrial artist Bile’s Teknowhore here due to the drumming pattern and vocals. Congratulations if you have gone to the Bandcamp link below to see if enduring this is for you, one last panic attack in the form of ‘Squalor’ to wade through and you have made it…
I’m in two minds about this and the mind is a terrible thing to taste but having come out the right side several times listening to this there is a quality and stubbornness to push at boundaries and subvert about Wolok that I can’t help but admire and like. I get the feeling there is no hope for people that play music like this or enjoy it but screw it, one last dance before oblivion. I’m rather pleased this found its way to me.
(7.5/10 Pete Woods)