Wolfheart- Shadow World

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Friday, October 23, 2015

Two years ago Finnish melodic death metal band Wolfheart released its debut full length Winterborn via Violent Journey Records. The album was picked up for a re-release with two bonus tracks earlier this year by Spinefarm Records, and that’s likely how a lot of listeners outside of Finland became familiar with the group. For the uninitiated, Wolfheart is the new band from Black Sun Aeon/Before the Dawn’s Tuomas Saukkonen and Winterborn offered one entrancing riff after another full of icy melodic death metal. On that effort Saukkonen handled all of the instrumentation himself, but for sophomore effort Shadow World the project has expanded into a full band with former guest guitarist Mika Lammassaari brought on as a permanent member alongside bassist Lauri Silvonen and drummer Joonas Kauppinen. With this new lineup in place, Wolfheart has delivered another incredible effort that finds them incorporating some other subtle nuances alongside the powerful riffing showcased previously.

Shadow World feels like the next logical step for this group, as all of the elements that worked perfectly on Winterborn have been retained and additional stylistic nuances have been added into the mix. What this means is that the main focus of the instrumentals continues to be on sweeping riffing that leads up to epic sounding climaxes and an equal split between harsher distorted sections and colder melodies. In between the melodic death metal style riffing and drum patterns, there are hints of black metal and even a little bit of Finnish death/doom present during some of the slower sections. These extra stylistic elements help to add even more depth to the instrumentation, and keeps each track feeling slightly different from the last while still providing a cohesive flow that makes the entire album a seamless listen. Saukkonen’s compositions were certainly impressive before, but it’s clear from listening to Shadow World that having an expanded lineup has allowed the songwriting to reach even greater heights and touch upon even fuller and more stunning climaxes than ever before. As a nice added touch, pianist/keyboardist Saku Moilanen was brought in as a guest on several of the songs and the flourishes of keyboards works perfectly with the haunting melodies provided by the rest of the band.

Tuomas Saukkonen’s powerful growls continue to be a dominant element of Wolfheart’s music, and the way that he completely towers over the guitars makes all of the material feel that much more intense. While the group’s debut focused exclusively on his harsher ranges and let them drive everything forward, this time around bassist Lauri Silvonen adds in some cleaner ranges during key moments. This puts Shadow World a bit closer to some of Black Sun Aeon’s or Before the Dawn’s work that had regular switchovers between clean and harsh, though it’s worth noting that at this point in time Wolfheart still favors the abrasiveness a bit more. It’s a subtle difference from the debut, but the added vocal ranges do help to enhance some of the mellowest moments and keep the atmosphere at an entrancing level. I’m not sure if Silvonen will take on a larger vocal role in the years to come, but I think it’s a direction that continues to work on any band Saukkonen has been behind and certainly wouldn’t mind if this is what ends up happening.

No longer a solo project, Wolfheart has kept the foundation of what made their debut so engaging and added in some hints of black metal and doom to create an album full of soaring melodic climaxes and that icy cold tonality that Nordic bands continue to do the best. A lot of melodic death metal groups have a tendency to strike that peak level of catchy guitar leads and haunting atmosphere early on and then fall into a rut after a few albums, but with Shadow World Saukkonen and company have been able to deliver another stunning effort that’s just as strong as their debut. If you’re a fan of anything related to melodic death metal and haven’t experienced what these guys have to offer yet, don’t miss out as you’ll likely find yourself blown away after only one song.


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