We all like a “side project” don’t we? When a well-known musician from a biggish band decides to branch out and do something a bit different to their day job. Sometimes….very different, sometimes not so much but I find it quite exciting to see what these are like. Will they be decent or is it just a case of an indulgent twat pissing around with his mates.

Some are really good, Kingdom Of Sorrow / Bronx Casket Co.  some….. not so much (see Methods Of Mayhem / Lindemann / 2wo.)

Well, Death Wolf fall very much into the first category….. and this is a cracking record.

Death Wolf began as Devil’s Whorehouse and is the side project of Marduk guitarist Morgan Håkansson. The band put out their self titled debut as Death Wolf in 2011, this being their fourth and the follow up to 2014s  “III: Ostergotlund”

Five years or so between albums is a long time but Morgan has been busy touring the globe with Marduk on the back of the brilliant “Viktoria” album and the passage of time has seen the Death Wolf sound develop beyond its Misfitsalike punky origins into a really cool yet dark blend of metal and goth rock. Sounds wanky but it’s really not. Every one of the eleven tracks is unique and has its own, menacingly catchy, identity.

Better known for his savage, lightning fast guitar work in Marduk, Morgan’s happy to take a bit of a back seat here playing bass and he fattens up the rhythm section which is completed by Mikael Karlsson on drums. The catchy earworm riffs & leads are supplied by Marcus Backbrand and the often melancholy vocals of Valentin Mellstrom flesh out the Death Wolf pack.

Special mention actually to the vocals. They flit between howling, haunted howls to powerful, cleanly sung yet mournful choruses. Great stuff.

There’s not really a duff track on the album and they are all unique in their own way. From the empowering battle-metal of  “The Sword” with its immense chorus to the thrashy head banging riffage of “Edge Of The Forest”  to the galloping “Iron & Flame” Death Wolf have you covered no matter what metal mood you’re in.

Like I said, the tracks are all distinctive but there is an overarching dark and foreboding vibe to the whole record which binds this into an essential collection of songs.

Album closer “Conqueror’s Dance” has an almost Nick Cave / Bauhaus / Bowie atmosphere and is a suitably downbeat but enjoyable way to bring the album to an end.

I’d thoroughly recommend this album to any metal fan that likes something a bit different. There are no “Panzer Division…” blasts so don’t go in expecting that. Immerse yourself in the music and take Death Wolf for what it is….. a bloody good band.

(9/10 Mark Eve)