Wolverine – A Darkened Sun – Review

Artist: Wolverine

Album Title: A Darkened Sun

Label: Independent Release

Date of Release: 31 October 2020

If nothing else, Covid-19 has brought out some of the most creative and ambitious sides of our cherished and beloved musicians, who have fought hard and tried to find ways to stay alive whilst their world has threatened to crumble at the hands of a global pandemic that has seen live music in the flesh cease almost entirely. Streamed gigs, greater social media interaction, inventive merchandise offerings – you name it, we’ve seen it over the past year.

Wolverine are no exception, as ‘A Darkened Sun’ more than ably proves. Not content to release a ‘standard’ EP or full-length, they have created what they refer to as an ‘audio-visual’ release. Essentially, ‘A Darkened Sun’ is a four-track (or four chapter) EP that clocks in at around the 28 minute mark. However, it is being released entirely independently via YouTube, with the music accompanied by a full-length video, filmed by the band’s very own bassist Thomas Jansson.

Cards on the table, my personal circumstances have not afforded me a great deal of time to watch and digest the video that accompanies the music in minute detail. Children, full-time job, dog…you know the score. Nevertheless, I have watched it a number of times and what I would say is this: it is a very well put-together piece of work, that fits the music perfectly. As you’ll know, Wolverine are not the happiest of bands when it comes to their musical output and lyrical content. In keeping with this, the film is shot in black and white, which is perfect to convey the bleakness of the story that unfolds through the four chapters. The imagery is rife with symbolism, but it has a gritty, earthy texture about it too, conveyed through the urban landscapes that appear throughout. It’s also incredibly dark in places. At risk of being way off the mark, I wonder whether the main female protagonist in the video is Sarah, who featured on the ‘Cold Light Of Monday’ album, released back in 2003. Either way, the great thing about art is that it can be interpreted in any number of different ways, so perhaps it is best that each of us approaches the video independently, to draw our own personal, subjective conclusions.

Manofmuchmetal.com is always about the music first and foremost in any case and so that’s where I now want to turn my attention. When it comes to the songs themselves, I have lost count of the number of times I have listened to them. I therefore feel much better positioned to give my thoughts on this aspect of the release.

My first comment is that the music is strikingly heavy. For a progressive metal band, Wolverine have never been light on the ear, but the opening two tracks in particular contain arguably some of the most muscular guitar tones in their history. The opening distorted chords of ‘Phoenix Slain’ by Jonas Jonsson that emerge after a suitably dystopian-sounding repeated electronic note, are bold and full of menace. However, after a flurry of activity, the song quietens down into something altogether more sombre and melancholy, Stefan Zell’s voice cutting through the beautifully brittle soundscape with understated emotion. Instantly recognisable as Wolverine, the ebb and flow of the composition is one of its many strengths, as are the subtle melodies that only really make their mark after several spins, and when you least expect them. The modern electronic sounds and accompanying synths courtesy of Per Henriksson create an unsettling atmosphere as the song meanders into darker territory, whilst raising the tension via well-placed guitar solos and a more insistent rhythmic beat from drummer Marcus Losbjer and bassist Thomas Jansson. There’s a brief moment of piano-led calm before the track explodes once again with a reprise of those threatening guitar chords, more emotive lead guitar work and greater, more pronounced syths.

There is precious little time to pause for breath as ‘The Breach’ opens with a heavy, grooving, churning riff. It is a track that’s possibly more instantly dramatic than its predecessor, but it is blessed with a gorgeous chorus melody that gets more addictive with each passing listen. The atmospheres are so poignant, especially when let loose in the quieter sections, only to release into the beautiful chorus once again. This song is Wolverine at their beguiling best in my opinion.

‘Dead to the Moon’ is a quieter, more introspective affair that’s unmistakeably Wolverine but with a hint of Katatonia about it. It is arguably the bleakest of the four compositions here, but no less gorgeous and well-written.  And then, the final track, ‘Hibernator’ – do I detect a vague sense of hope, and positivity? Not according to the lyrics, no. But there’s something about the song that suggests otherwise. I love the opening beat, where bass, drums and synths create an immersive experience from the outset, but it’s the ‘chorus’ melody that draws me in the most, made all the more powerful thanks to the cloying darkness and oppression that’s present within the majority of the song.

 And then? Nothing. That’s it. Damnit, I wasn’t ready for the music to end. On this form, I want to hear another three or four songs, to revel in the misery that Wolverine are so expert at creating. When you listen, you are transported to some really dark and desolate places but it never seems to matter because the music is so cleverly written and immaculately performed that you willingly get caught up in their typically grim world. I hate that Wolverine have never received the recognition they deserve – in a fairer world, they guys would be huge. And the fact that they are willing to try something different, speak volumes for their creative hunger. Yes I would have preferred a full-length ‘normal’ album, but this audio-visual production, available on the band’s website at http://www.wolverine-overdose.com/  is excellent in its own right and may just gain them a few new fans along the way. 

The Score of Much Metal: 91%

Check out my reviews from 2020 right here:

Avandra – Skylighting

Pyramaze – Epitaph

Necrophobic – Dawn Of The Damned

Fates Warning – Long Day Good Night

Draconian – Under A Godless Veil

Mörk Gryning – Hinsides Vrede

DGM – Tragic Separation

Perduratum – Exile’s Anthology

Carcass – Despicable EP

Mors Principium Est – Seven

Cult Of Lilith – Mara

Helion Prime – Question Everything

Soul Secret – Blue Light Cage

Enslaved – Utgard

Dynfari – Myrkurs er þörf

Amaranthe – Manifest

Kataklysm – Unconquered

Structural Disorder – Kingdom Crossing

Skeletal Remains – The Entombment Of Chaos

Prehistoric Animals – The Magical Mystery Machine (Chapter One)

Ihsahn – Pharos

Hinayana – Death Of The Cosmic
Oceans Of Slumber – Oceans Of Slumber
Okyr – Premorbid Intelligence
Manticora – To Live To Kill To Live
Pain Of Salvation – Panther
Vanishing Point – Dead Elysium
Unleash The Archers – Abyss
Veonity – Sorrows
Nyktophobia – What Lasts Forever
Ages – Uncrown
Awake By Design – Awake By Design
Black Crown Initiate – Violent Portraits Of Doomed Escape
Gaerea – Limbo
Buried Realm – Embodiment Of The Divine
Navian – Reset
Selenseas – The Outer Limits
Quantum – The Next Breath Of Air
Ensiferum – Thalassic
Long Distance Calling – How Do We Want To Live?
Airbag – A Day At The Beach
Re-Armed – Ignis Aeternum
Atavist – III: Absolution
Frost* – Others EP
Darker Half – If You Only Knew
Atavistia – The Winter Way
Astralborne – Eternity’s End
Centinex – Death In Pieces
Haken – Virus
Pile Of Priests – Pile Of Priests
Sorcerer – Lamenting Of The Innocent
Lesoir – Mosaic
Temnein – Tales: Of Humanity And Greed
Caligula’s Horse – Rise Radiant
…And Oceans – Cosmic World Mother
Vader – Solitude In Madness
Shrapnel – Palace For The Insane
Sinisthra – The Broad And Beaten Way
Paradise Lost – Obsidian
Naglfar – Cerecloth
Forgotten Tomb – Nihilistic Estrangement
Winterfylleth – The Reckoning Dawn
Firewind – Firewind
An Autumn For Crippled Children – All Fell Silent, Everything Went Quiet
Havok – V
Helfró – Helfró
Victoria K – Essentia
Cryptex – Once Upon A Time
Thy Despair – The Song Of Desolation
Cirith Ungol – Forever Black
Igorrr – Spirituality and Distortion
Nightwish – Human. II: Nature.
Katatonia – City Burials
Wolfheart – Wolves Of Karelia
Asenblut – Die Wilde Jagd
Nicumo – Inertia
The Black Dahlia Murder – Verminous
Omega Infinity – Solar Spectre
Symbolik – Emergence
Pure Reason Revolution – Eupnea
Irist – Order Of The Mind
Testament – Titans Of Creation
Ilium – Carcinogeist
Dawn Of Ouroboros – The Art Of Morphology
Torchia – The Coven
Novena – Eleventh Hour
Ashes Of Life – Seasons Within
Dynazty – The Dark Delight
Sutrah – Aletheia EP
Welicoruss – Siberian Heathen Horde
Myth Of I – Myth Of I
My Dying Bride – The Ghost Of Orion
Infirmum – Walls Of Sorrow
Inno – The Rain Under
Kvaen – The Funeral Pyre
Mindtech – Omnipresence
Dark Fortress – Spectres From The Old World
The Oneira – Injection
Night Crowned – Impius Viam
Dead Serenity – Beginnings EP
The Night Flight Orchestra – Aeromantic
Deadrisen – Deadrisen
Blaze Of Perdition – The Harrowing Of Hearts
Godsticks – Inescapable
Isle Of The Cross – Excelsis
Demons & Wizards – III
Vredehammer – Viperous
H.E.A.T – H.E.A.T II
Psychotic Waltz – The God-Shaped Void
Into The Open – Destination Eternity
Lunarsea – Earthling/Terrestre
Pure Wrath – The Forlorn Soldier EP
Sylosis – Cycle of Suffering
Sepultura – Quadra
Dyscordia – Delete / Rewrite
Godthrymm – Reflections
On Thorns I Lay – Threnos
God Dethroned – Illuminati
Fragment Soul – A Soul Inhabiting Two Bodies
Mariana Semkina – Sleepwalking
Mini Album Reviews: Moloken, The Driftwood Sign & Midnight
Serenity – The Last Knight
Ihsahn – Telemark EP
Temperance – Viridian
Blasphemer – The Sixth Hour
Deathwhite – Grave Image
Marko Hietala – Pyre Of The Black Heart
SWMM – Trail Of The Fallen
Into Pandemonium – Darkest Rise EP
Bonded – Rest In Violence
Serious Black – Suite 226
Darktribe – Voici L’Homme
Brothers Of Metal – Emblas Saga
A Life Divided – Echoes
Thoughts Factory – Elements

You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here:

2019 reviews
2018 reviews
2017 reviews
2016 reviews
2015 reviews

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