Finnish epic melodic Death Metal quartet Wolfheart refer to themselves as “Winter Metal,” a fitting title for their bold, icy and melancholic interpretation of the genre. Wolfheart’s Winter Metal is like a trek through the frozen mountains to a private cabin where you can warm your bones before setting out on a solitary hunt. It’s like a freezing blizzard that howls all night, pounding at your walls and rattling your windows, and it’s the beauty of a fresh, deep snowfall and the vast morning sky once the storm has passed.
‘Constellation of the Black Light’ is Wolfheart’s fourth album in their five-year strong career, and their first since being picked up by the mighty Napalm Records. While previous offerings have dealt heavily with nature and the typical Arctic melancholy, this album also draws inspiration from the Winter War – the 105-day conflict between the Soviet Union and Finland that claimed 25,904 Finnish lives and had immensely devastating consequences on the country.
This is a rather challenging album to review due to its sheer emotional complexity. It doesn’t feel like seven separate songs, but rather a 41-minute long opus with seven different scenes, each to be experienced in sequence. This is not music you can simply play in the background — it will draw you in and distract you entirely from your mundane thoughts and tasks. It will whisk you away into a world of darkness, despair and colour.
The ten-minute long opener, Everlasting Fall, builds tension with an atmospheric, acoustic introduction that cascades into colourful ribbons of melody on a backdrop of pounding drums and thunderous bass, conjuring up feelings of the Aurora Borealis against the night sky. After setting the stage with the bombastic and majestic opening track, Wolfheart leads us directly into battle. Breakwater is an absolute force of fury. While I had already heard Breakwater when it was released as a single in August, experiencing it in the context of the album makes it even more powerful. The musicianship here is terrific, especially the drumming. Tight, fast and dynamic, this tornadic colossus relents only for a moment of wistful reflection before devouring the light once again.
While there are absolutely no weak tracks on this masterpiece, The Saw, a melancholic and icy epic, is definitely one of the strongest points, and was also released as a single. Doomy and melodic, this piece of artwork would not feel out-of-place on an Insomnium record. That is not to say that it is in any way derivative – it is merely cut from the same swath of Finnish anguish.
The album progresses unabated through the next three tracks of majesty blended expertly with brutality, the sorrow and fury dusted lightly with moments of celebration and whimsy, such as the folky and playful riffs that punctuate Warfare. And then comes Valkyrie, the last track on the album.
Valkyrie is a beast, beginning with military-like drum rolls creating the feeling of an army marching on top of the frozen mud. It continues into despair, with heartfelt lyrics describing the emptiness and loneliness of the battlefield after all have died. If you’ve managed to avoid crying thus far, don’t be surprised if you find yourself in tears at this point. Valkyrie then concludes the album in direct contrast to Everlasting Fall, leading the listener gently out of the darkness with a soft piano melody. If Everlasting Fall is the night and the Aurora Borealis, Valkyrie is the sun rising over the landscape and the hope of a new day. You may need a few moments to recover from this grandiose masterpiece before undertaking it again. A truly epic journey from start to finish, ‘Constellation of the Black Light’ is a composition that will not soon be forgotten.
‘Constellation of the Black Light’ was released on September 28, 2018, and is available on CD and vinyl on the Napalm web store.