Band: The Wolf Garden
Album: The Yawning Abyss
Label: Zombnambulist Records
Genre: Atmospheric Black Metal
Release Date: December 1st, 2018
The Wolf Garden is the work of two men, TH and PB; together they have crafted four songs of atmospheric black metal that range in emotion from beautiful and wondrous to harsh and relentless. I came across this album by way of a Facebook group, with mutual member TH who made a post promoting his new release. I instantly fired up the link to give it a listen and was thoroughly impressed with the opening track, dropping a comment so I could return later to give it a complete and proper play-through.
The first thing that struck me about this release was how professional it all sounds; like the album of a long-established band, mixed and mastered by some heavily name-dropped industry legend. I went in knowing this was a new project, but if I hadn’t I honestly would have been surprised to find that out. Everything on display is practiced and precise, including the atmospheric sections which feel very natural in their inclusion. The blend of beauty and aggression is the main draw for me to either atmo-black or post-black metal, and The Wolf Garden easily tap that vein and bleed it dry.
Music is split between the two members with TH handling guitars, vocals, bass, and keyboards, and PB on drums and percussion. PB has a solid performance throughout the EP with a consistent approach to the pummeling drums by utilizing the full kit, letting nothing go to waste. Save for the atmospherics, the beats and rolls fill the aural landscape, but PB is skilled at switching the styles around to compliment the music, slowing down and helping to drag the agony from the music. TH is head of all other musical endeavors, leading the stringed instruments and the keyboards all while shrieking his lungs out. The vocals predominantly appear as the harrowing shriek of a depressed specter, or when the pace picks up a commanding demonic roar; there is a notable moment in Seed of a Giant Tree where the vocals are layered with clean singing as well. The guitars are ably performed, mostly sticking to the quick tremolo riffing standard of black metal; standing out in moments of deviation, whether that is a melodic part of an atmospheric section, or the complete switching of riff styles like in Ginnungagap. Keyboards add a layer of mystery and otherworldly aura to this album; managing to be completely integral without being distracting, or pushed too far into the background.
The first half of this EP starts with Seed of a Giant Tree, which opens with an atmospheric setting similar to that of the cover, as a slow and sweet guitar plays over a choir-sounding synth backdrop; this peace is short-lived as the violent riffing and pounding drumming explode out at the listener, but the synth backdrop remains, cultivating a tense juxtaposition that pays dividends. Ginnungagap follows and is my favorite track, starting with a brief drum intro before the buzzing mid-paced guitars and a slow haunting melody come in. The opening section is bleak, and more disheartening as it continues; just when you feel like you’re at peak depression, the pace and melody break to more of a gallop as the song charges forward before falling into haunting atmospherics. That’s only the first half of the song, while the second half plays with the same ideas in a new way; this kind of dynamic song writing is present across the album, but is highlighted here especially.
The back half of this release has a similar beginning to the first, A Snake in the Roots Strangles the World opens on an atmospheric and peaceful scene soon interrupted by the malicious mowing of a caustic black metal assault. My initial thoughts of this song were how perfect a soundtrack it makes to a grey and rainy day; capturing the benign splendor, and highlighting the somber ugliness. The melody forming the backbone of this song really stands out; taking what would otherwise be a good black metal song and elevating it to something more. Winter’s Father closes out this EP with keyboards laying the scene in misleadingly lush tone while the razor sharp guitars slice and the drums crash and blast. The final track also furthers the notion of balance present on this album, bringing in the beauty, bookended by horror, to let the tortured vocals strain out the last few words before collapsing into the sounds of water crashing.
The Yawning Abyss is an impressive piece of work, blending atmospherics, melody, and harsh black metal. The Wolf Garden have the talent to surmount the trappings of the genre, excessive repetition and meandering atmospheric passages, and prove as much here. Fans of the genre will find much to enjoy, but this could also serve as a good entry point for newcomers as well. The Wolf Garden are young and ravenous, and I can’t wait to hear more.
1. Seed of a Giant Tree
3. A Snake in the Roots Strangles the World
4. Winter’s Father
Total Playing Time: 25:51