Album Reviews

Wolfchant – Embraced by Fire Review

wolfchant_embracedbyfire_cover

Released By: NoiseArt Records

Release Date: March 1, 2013

Genre: Folk/Power Metal

Links: http://www.wolfchant.de/index2.html

 

Line Up:

Lokhi – Harsh Vocals

Nortwin – Clean Vocals

Skaahl – Guitar

Ragnar – Guitar

Sarolv – Bass

Gvern – Keyboards

Norgahd – Drums

 

Tracklist:

1. Devouring Flames

2. Embraced By Fire

3. Element

4. Turning Into Red

5. Einsame Wacht

6. Autumns Breath

7. Freier Geist

8. Winters Triumph

 

My taste in folk metal is fairly specific, and a little bit limited, in that I require it to be very epic and in general I prefer more flashy folk instrumentation and less black metal elements. However, the right kind of extreme folk metal can sometimes impress me, which is exactly what happened with Germany’s Wolfchant and their fourth full length album “Call Of The Black Winds”. That album wasn’t always folk in the traditional sense, nor was it really the kind of blackened folk metal I often struggle with. Instead, it was a very epic metal album driven by folk melodies, with a mix of blackened growls and clean vocals, to go along with quite the power metal feel to many of the songs, which resulted in something a little similar to Ensiferum in places, yet still different enough to stand out. With their latest release “Embraced By Fire”. Wolfchant continue to push in a similar direction, with a worthy follow up that is on the one hand even harder to define, in that it often combines several elements together in such a way it can be hard to pick out one main genre, yet on the other hand it’s much more focused. Yes, that sounds very confusing, so I’ll explain myself below.

The band likes to throw a lot at the listener at once, as showcased on a song like “Element”. On that one song, you’ll hear the speed and epic feel of a power metal album, guitar melodies that are clearly folk oriented (plus the clean vocals are very fitting for a folk metal album), layers of symphonic elements in the background throughout the song, and of course, extreme metal portions with blackened growls. In fact, I only used that song because it’s the first real obvious example, but I really could have said that about most songs here, and that brings me back to my initial statement: There’s never one element of the music that dominates on this album, as it constantly feels like a mixture of power, folk, symphonic and melodic black metal elements, and yet it still feels more focused than its predecessor, which was slightly easier to classify overall, but the songs were often different and the mood changed from song to song. On this album once you get a grasp on the overall sound it becomes very easy to appreciate what the band is doing, and to love each and every song, because the sound doesn’t vary all that much throughout, and even when the lyrics are darker it always sounds very epic and never feels as dark as the previous album did at points.

Vocal duties are split between Lokhi, who handles the blackened growls, and Nortwin, who handles the clean vocals. Lokhi seems to take a bit of a backseat on this album, though he still appears on every song, and his growls are still excellent. Nortwin (who’s actually Rebellion’s Michael Seifert, but I will refer to him as Nortwin for the purposes of this review), does all the clean vocals and for anyone who hasn’t heard him before, he is simply fantastic. A lot of the time his vocals are almost as aggressive as Lokhi’s, with a very low pitched voice that almost comes close to a growl at points, while other times he can dial it back and sing in a way more appropriate for a folk or power metal album. I have yet to hear an album with Nortwin between his two bands where I haven’t been blown away by his vocals, and “Embraced By Fire” certainly doesn’t break that trend.

It’s somewhat difficult to describe individual songs on this album, just because it’s so cohesive and so consistent, though out of the eight tracks, four of them impress me slightly more than the rest. First is “Devouring Flames”, which is actually an intro track. It’s not often an orchestral intro can be considered a highlight, but in this case it’s so incredibly epic and well-executed it feels like it would work great as part of a film score, and by the end it sounds like an amazing non-metal version of the title track, which obviously sets the table for my next highlight….. The title track itself! With such an amazing intro the song itself has a lot to live up to, and right from the opening melody it is simply stunning. It has a very folk metal feel to it, especially with how the main guitar melody sounds, and with the ridiculously epic chorus, but there’s also a whole lot more to it, as the symphonic elements are still very much present, while the slower parts with the harsh vocals work extremely well.

Most songs in the middle portion sound follow a similar formula, with almost all of them being very fast-paced and with an emphasis on the power metal elements, but with all the other elements still being there to add variety. I’d say they all remind me a bit of Ensiferum’s “From Afar”, with the emphasis on speed, while still containing extreme metal elements and an overall folk styling. The biggest difference is the extra emphasis on the clean vocals here. Out of all those, my favorite is “Einsame Wacht”, as it feels a bit more epic and more balanced than the others, though all of them are awesome.

The one song between the title track and the closing track that sounds different from the rest is “Autumns Breath”, which is much slower and heavier, though Nortwin does deliver some of his best softer vocals on the chorus. That song isn’t one of my four favorites, but it still deserves mentioning just for being a bit different, plus it has a very nice use of bagpipes for the main melody.. My last highlight is the closing track “Winters Triumph”, which is the slowest on the album, but much more melodic than “Autumns Breath”, and it’s probably the most traditional folk metal song here, The chorus is simply fantastic and really shows what Nortwin can do, while musically it is the least dynamic but most epic song on the album. It’s hard to say which I prefer, but I’d say this and the title track are my two favorites on the album overall.

Where “Call Of The Black Winds” saw the band experimenting with their sound and not quite settling on one sound, “Embraced By Fire” sees them continuing to push the envelop as far as mixing so many sounds together, and yet it still manages to feel like a more more focused and more cohesive album overall. I love both albums, but I think this one is a slight improvement, and I’m sure Wolfchant fans will be very happy with it, while fans of any kind of folk metal are recommended to try it, as I’m sure it won’t be hard for anyone to find at least parts of each song that they can enjoy. And for someone like me who can appreciate all the elements when balanced correctly, this album is an absolute delight.

PS: Retail copies of the album include a bonus second disc which my promo copy does not have. On that disc is a re-recorded version of their full length debut “Bloody Tales Of Disgraced Lands”.

 

Written by Travis

Ratings    Travis    9/10

 

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