Skeleton Wolf – Skeleton Wolf (2016)

This mostly Indiana-based three piece made up of mostly former members of the black metal act Maax (currently on hiatus) have decided to add some modernization into their decidedly blackened sound with this self-titled debut. Bits of groove, thrash and even melodic death metal have gone into this concoction, making it suitable for fans of everyone from Lamb Of God to latter-era Immortal and even Amon Amarth. Jeff Mason (bass) pumps in the grooves, while Brett Schlagel (guitars) seems to tackle all of the hard-hitting riffs and melodic tremolos. On the vocal end is a rather gruff sounding fellow by the name of Tim Green, who offers the kind of roughnecked approach to the mic as you’d expect, had you seen him in person. The drums are programmed, but I can’t even notice one hint of error there and it works for me. Technology is truly wondrous.

These guys obviously aren’t trying to go for any sort of black metal kvlt status, especially when you have cuts like “MPFF” which is more or less a Pantera-fueled thrash and groove effort with bits of hardcore. Then again, we have pieces like “At the Sixth Foot”, “Whatever Demons” and “Eternal Lies” which alternatively sound much closer to black metal than you’d expect. “Eternal Lies” in particular gave me a rather chilly feel, but like “At the Sixth Foot” I could still hear pieces of that early Amon Amarth (Once Sent From the Golden Hall) sound embedded within it and that’s what made this debut stick out. Skeleton Wolf is a record where you can pretty much ascertain that these guys have got their chops down, they know what kind of sound they’re going for and they for the most part, achieve it. I’d certainly say that while “MPFF” might make a great pit anthem, the closer “Forever Awake” is worth it’s weight in gold, purely due to it’s awesome melodies.

The listener might be surprised to see that they’re actually getting quite a bit of what I could consider memorable melodies, whether those be of the more Norwegian or Swedish variety, as Green’s performance fits this formula perfectly. And yes, there are even some solo cuts that I couldn’t help but mention. Not only does Schlagel show that he can craft some terrific leads, but that he can light up the sky just as well as any other guitarist worth their salt. Schlagel’s actually a rather skilled axeman and the very heart of this project. You can tell that he put a lot of work into these compositions, and while the Maax stuff might not have been wonderously praised on Metal Archives; (both releases sit roughly in the seventies) this more modern and I’m assuming less restrained (I haven’t heard the Maax records) approach might be the best thing he’s got going for him at present. Skeleton Wolf a record that I wouldn’t mind playing again and again, where every song seems to hit it’s mark and doesn’t leave me quickly bored. I’ve always been a fan of black metal, but I love when it’s mixed along with other things. Some bands fail miserably at this approach, while others greatly succeed. Skeleton Wolf is a pure example of the latter, which is why I highly recommend checking this one out. Love or hate it, it sounds good to me.

(7 Tracks)

9/10

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