Wolfheart- Winterborn

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Last year Finnish musician Tuomas Saukkonen announced he was disbanding all of his current musical projects to focus on a solo endeavor entitled Wolfheart. While you may not have heard all of the groups he has been a part of over the years, chances are that you may have heard material from Before the Dawn or Black Sun Aeon. As Saukkonen was the driving force behind those two groups Wolfheart’s debut full length Winterborn will feel familiar to those that have experienced his work before, but it doesn’t seem as though he is merely retreading the same ground. It’s an album that manages to impress from beginning to end and anyone that’s followed either of the aforementioned bands or appreciates melodic death metal won’t want to miss out on it.

At the heart of Winterborn’s songs is melodic death metal, as there is the mixture of aggressive riffs and drum beats and soaring melodic leads that have become hallmarks of the style. But there are also elements of folk and death/doom that appear over the course of the album, making it seem as though Saukkonen has really been able to channel a little bit of each style that he has explored in his past projects. This is definitely a good thing though, as the album consistently impresses from one track to the next and there is enough stylistic variation between each one to keep it from feeling the songwriting is merely following a pattern. Wolfheart might go for soaring, majestic melodies on one track and then transition completely over to the death metal side of the spectrum with some intense blasting. Guitarist Mika Lammassaari (Eternal Tears of Sorrow) was brought in to perform some guest guitar solos on several of the songs, and while the instrumentals are definitely strong enough on their own to grab your attention his work puts things over the edge. In particular, the absolutely stunning melodic solos on “Whiteout” and “Chasm” have led me to hit the repeat button quite a few times since I first started listening to this album. Although there may be a ton of artists trying to channel these same influences, the level of songwriting that Wolfheart has to offer puts this material above the rest.

Before the Dawn and Black Sun Aeon both had clean vocals as a prominent element at different points, but Wolfheart has focused its attention entirely on harsher screams and growls. It makes sense considering that this is Tuomas Saukkonen’s solo endeavor and the clean singing has been handled by other members in the past, but the emphasis on harsher tonality also fits the overall sound perfectly. The growls often tower over the instrumental work and up the intensity that each moment provides on a regular basis. Sometimes when one style is used for an entire release it starts to become a bit repetitive by the end but this wasn’t the case on Winterborn as the pitch was able to vary slightly throughout the release. Overall, the performance remains consistently strong and it feels like Saukkonen’s renewed focus as a solo artist has helped significantly. I do think there is room for other vocal styles if Wolfheart decides to include them further down the road, but even if this doesn’t happen it won’t detract from what the band has to offer.

Some fans may have been disappointed with the loss of Before the Dawn or Black Sun Aeon, but Wolfheart definitely seems like a suitable replacement. I’ve heard plenty of melodic death metal that caught my attention early and then faded away, but Winterborn managed to stay engaging from beginning to end and was able to deliver soaring, atmospheric moments that were truly stunning. This is definitely one of my highlights of the year and if this is the path that Tuomas Saukkonen wants to continue exploring in this new project I fully support it.


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