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Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Review: The Wolves Of Avalon - Across Corpses Grey

The Wolves of Avalon are a band formed in 2011 by Meads of Asphodel main man ‘Metatron’
and J. Marinos to create a 'Pagan inspired musical interpretation of ancient British history'.
That is what the biography that came with the album read. Across Corpses Grey is their 3rd full length album and features the single 30 minute title track and 2 covers: The Voice of Steel by Ukrainian pagan metal band Nokturnal Mortum and Die Hard by Venom.

The things that make the Wolves of Avalon different from other pagan metal bands are the prominent use of non metal instruments like cello, violin and flute and the many guests that star on the album (Thurios from Drudkh, Alan Averill from Primordial, Rob Miller from Amebix and Mantas from Venom to name a few).

The albums title track starts out with some nature sounds and a monologue followed by an unaccompanied guitar solo reminiscent of what Pink Floyd did on Shine on You Crazy Diamond but more metal. What follows is a 30 minute journey dealing with the Wars of the Roses, a series of brutal wars between different families in England vying for the throne.

The music is reminiscent of bands like Falkenbach, viking era Bathory and Moonsorrow and contains melancholic and melodic guitar playing, clean interludes, grunted and clean sung vocals and some folksy elements from the non metal instruments mentioned before. The production is as you'd expect from this kind of metal. The drums are a bit further in the mix, the guitar and violin have the most prominent roles. The focus is more on the atmosphere than on technical prowess and it succeeds in evoking images of battle in your imagination. Because the song is so long it takes a few listens before it reveals all its secrets but when it does it is highly enjoyable. My personal favourites are the melancholic flute solo around the 10 minute mark, the first time the clean vocals kick in and the song takes an entirely different direction emotionally and the bluesy solo around 22 minutes.

The song is mostly mid tempo. This is also where my one complaint lies. Whilst the intensity and emotion builds greatly during the first 25 minutes of the track, the song never reaches a fast climax and instead sort of fades like a night candle. Not that the ending isn't properly crafted or played. It just doesn't seem that fulfilling after everything that came before it. Everything that came before it is beautiful and some of the better pagan/black/folk metal in quite a while. All in all the song has a lot (and I do mean a lot) of great ideas and parts but feels a bit too long to keep me entertained over its entire length.

The Nokturnal Mortum cover is a different story. It is brought with the perfect blend of giving your own touch to the song and staying true to the original. The sad part is that to me, this song demonstrates the potential of blending metal and traditional instruments way more than the first track. This is mostly due to the fact that the song is more compact, ups it's tempo at just the right time and all around feels more "finished". This for me was the high point of the album, something of which I am sure it was not the intention.

The Venom cover is the strange track on this album. It seems to break with the rest of the music and is a much more in your face and raw then the rest of the material. On the one had this has the band ending with a fast paced song that gives the album the climax it needs. On the other hand it doesn't seem to fit in with the rest of the material. I loved the fact that original guitarist Mantas performed the guitars on this piece however, the song fitted better on the 7 inch on which it was originally released.

This album has the band making another step forward since the last album. Is this a good album? Definitely! Is it a great album? Depends on your tastes. I personally prefer The Meads Of Asphodel.

Score: 76/100

1. "Across Corpses Grey"
2. "The Voice of Steel" - Nokturnal Mortum cover
3. "Die Hard" - Venom cover

Written by Doctor Chris


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