'Towards The Gates Of North'
Roger Berzerk Fauske
Another of the ever growing number of bands coming out of Finland, Wolfhorde are a Folk Metal band but as with so many bands from them there parts, there are so many elements and influences in their music that the genre label is there because the music industry seems lost without it.
As for the musical and lyrical content of the album, the often used subject of Viking Mythology is again the influence here but with a twist.
Instead of telling stories of great heroes fighting battles in a fantasy land, the story behind Towards The Gates of North is a more down to earth one - it is the journey from the beginning of the end to the beginning of a new world.
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The opener and scene setter is 'Vegvísir' (Yes it is an Icelandic word but seeing as Icelandic and old Norse are brothers in arms, you will understand why). In a way it is what you would expect; acoustic, keys, pipes with the track fading out to the sound of waves drifting over the coast. But it works very well indeed, giving a melancholy feel, the beginning of things to come.
'Fimbulvetr' is next up and in Norse mythology it is the harsh winter that precedes the end of life. Musically this one as you would expect has more than a tinge of darkness to it although that is tempered with a between verse melody that gives an air of hope and destiny.
The growling vocals supply most of the menace, drums so thunderous that Thor would approve adding to that feeling. The melody that sits behind is a very well done affair, keeping the different parts of the song tied together very well.
'Taivaankappaleiden Kato' starts off quietly before launching an all-out assault, Hukkapätkä's throaty vocals again spelling out a dark message, doom and gloom emanate in triplicate. This time the music behind it carries less hope and destiny, and more of the same message.
It is musically something the Folk Metal brigade will love but there is more than enough in it for those who aren't wholly dedicated to that genre. This one is another well written piece, conveying the message and the mood very well indeed.
'Death Long-Due' is a sometimes chaotic piece, but it a controlled chaos and fits together well both musically and as storytelling. The song title, the harsh chant like delivery, the crashing drums and menacing guitar carry it off very well indeed as it careers towards its conclusion. Strangely there is, to my ears at least, a touch of the vocal melody of Helloween's 'Future World' towards the end of the track.
'The Retribution' carries on the theme with a more up tempo feel, speeding instrumentation behind the quickening vocals and the effect is invigorating. The band still have some tricks up their sleeves with a brief slowing down of the tempo acting as a natural buffer before it all kicks into gear again, finally laying itself to rest at the end of another slower section.
The impressive part about this one is that neither the voice nor the instruments threaten to drown the other out, being spaced perfectly in the mix – something that doesn't always happen.
'Unyielding' is next up and immediately the vibe is of a more uplifting variety, well brought out by the brighter sound and particularly the chants in the chorus section. As it speeds to its inevitable conclusion, the harsher vocals don't detract from the songs message, crisp guitar acting as a fine foil.
The melody again on this one is a memorable one and although a lot of bands in this genre tend to start and finish at the same point musically, there is still a lot of room for manoeuvre in between as these guys show very well.
'Boundless Agony' is different to what has come before – fast paced, furious even verging on the manic and more chaos but it is again kept under control very well indeed. They push it right to the edge and that gives it an excitement all of its own.
Nifty melodic backline, changing tact more than once, means you aren't always sure where it is going next but in all directions it delivers and the vocal interchanges with guitar three quarters of the way in are the real gems in this one.
Next on the list is 'Lycomania' which is actually the fear that a person may transform into a wolf or other animals. If you didn't know, wolves feature very strongly in Norse mythology – come Ragnarok they are responsible for eating Odin, swallowing the moon and all manner of not too friendly acts.
Musically, great guitar work pedalling some classic rock riffs start things off before the now familiar vocals leap in and there is more great interplay between the two. Perfectly suited drums pumped out in military fashion before some screaming riff work takes it to a new level before it settles back down, although never by a lot. This one never lets up right up to the last note - a great piece of writing and playing.
So to the final one, the title track, 'The Gates of North'. This is also by a country mile the longest one on the album, coming in at just over nine minutes long. Those who have a fear of long songs can put your worries aside as this one is so gripping and well arranged that it really doesn't seem that long.
It is almost an epic in itself telling its own story, a subplot to the main one, and it pulls you in different direction, hope, fear and most emotions in between rise from the music like a vengeful phoenix right until the last spoken words.
From a purely musical perspective, it is beautifully done, never allowing itself to stay too long in the same mood, meandering then like a rushing torrent to another section, always seamlessly.
So there you have it, some more Viking moods for you and a musically very good album. As my heritage is half from the land of the berserkers, I always enjoy some good old Norse mythology but that is not necessary to find meaning in this.
As I have said more than once, the purely musical side is impressive and that is really the main point – so it's a win on the concept and the music, not always the case as we all know so well.
Do yourselves a favour and connect with them or at least have a good listen to the album. If you don't, Odin may be very unhappy and you wouldn't want that would you?
Werihukka – Guitar and other instruments
Hukkapätkä – Vocals and drums
Nuoskajalka – Bass