This one fell out into that shadow world of mid to late December but even having finally made their acquaintance in 2019 I wasn’t about to let Wolvencrown’s debut slip by uncommented. UKBM has so much to offer at the moment and at least live Wolvencrown are a fine part of that bulwark.

‘Earth’s Eternal Dawn’ opens with a staggering, Sargeist worthy riff, all trembling notes and driving force before the pace slows and the keyboards darken and we’re somewhere in the misty hills with Winterfylleth, Fellwarden, Fyrdsman and the like. A flicker of clean singing, a perfect fall of dark, primal atmosphere and it’s a beautifully assured beginning full of class and emotion.

The two part follow up, 1194 (which I can only assume has something to do with Richard I somewhat momentous year, or maybe not….) begins with a more majestic pace. The keyboards once more swell the sound but with taste as the riff refrain builds an almost folk feel. A kind of attack that Eternal Helcarax can also summon. With impassioned vocals, some perfectly judged drum work and the yearning, soaring guitar rising out of the riff it is outstanding. Part II leads with perhaps harsher vocals and a sense of urgency pushing the longer lead break. It is all such an English sound to me, that not quite folk whisper, the grim but enveloping atmosphere, the melody with snarling teeth. It drifts into clean female vocals for a moment, a delicate clearing, before the howling wolves are released.

Oh this is great stuff; a full bodied production letting these songs rise. Compared to their previous four tracker this is just… Just that wonder of a band finding their true feet and tearing through the night.

‘Infernal Throne’ shows so much variation in their vocal approach; from feral howls to clean shouts to snarls. The hooks in the riff woven around the keyboards finely judged. The title track has a more basic rumble to its soul, but none the worse for it. Rich soil, deep roots rather than misty hills. ‘Towards Broken Depths’ is just epic; trilling melody atop a riff so full of yearning and soul my chest gets tight as the breath refuses to leave.

‘Destined’ begins with acoustic guitar, string sounds and a dry riff. Building the pressure and flinging open the gates as the torrent surges outwards. Saor swirling with Winterfylleth on the borders, flowing down towards the sea.

S.A.D. closes. A curious, deeply melancholy track with a keyboard carried melody. It raises me up, only for that melody, now taken up by guitar to plunge me back into the world, bereft somehow. Just a perfect end.

Of Bark And Ash is a tremendous debut for this atmospheric black metal band. They have an unerring sense of melody and an iron soul to hold it up. No theatrics, simply passion. And yes it would have made my albums of the year list, easily.

Just wonderful.

(8.5/10 Gizmo)