Northwind Wolves
Dark...Cold...Grim

If you wish to be whisked away to the golden age of melodic, symphonic black metal, (i. e 1994-2001) and revisit classics like The Dynamic Gallery of Thoughts, Enthrone Darkness Triumphant, In the Nightside Eclipse, Aspera Hiems Symfonia,  Supreme Art of War, Nexus Polaris, New Obscurantis Order Born of the Flickering and Devs Iratvs, look no further than the remastered reissue of this self released, digital only 2017 debut  from California acts Northwind Wolves. Yes, sunny California.

American bands were a little behind the ball for the genre, but when they did jump in, in the early/mid 00s the likes of Vesperian Sorrow, Mysteriarch, Dreamscapes of the Perverse and Sanctus,  jumped in with a gleeful, honest, raw energy. and Northwind Wolves is very similar in that regard. The brain child of one ‘Noor’ (guitars, vocals, synths, lyrics, compositions) and ‘Astaroth’ (guitars /vocals) , the band was formerly known as Sinstorm and is joined by ex The Faceless drummer Brett Batdorf, and  the aptly named  Dark… Cold….Grim is clearly one of the most authentic and well done homages to that classic era and sound that I’ve heard in a loooooooong time.

The key(s) to the perfectly rendered sound is Noor’s fantastic keyboards which lock into the Stian Aarstad, Sverd and Andy Winter tones that deliver sweeping, epic majestic and sometimes celestial hues, with a air of ivory tinkling circus-y frivolity. It’s clearly synthetic before real choirs  and orchestras were all the rage.  Even Batdorf has a familiar Hellhammer-ish canter and gait. I mean, it’s fucking spot on- just listen to the track above, “Cold Hearted Kings of the Occult”, “Foul Wolves and Black Magic” or “Majestic Fog on the Everlasting Mountain” (they also have the song titles down pat).

Also- the riffs, raspy vocals and guitar tone nail the era as well, with a crisp but raw delivery and riffs/chord progressions that even hearkens to the 90s Grieghallen amd Abyss sound. But it never comes across as a rip off, but always an honest, perfectly executed homage.  I mean, the tracks I mentioned above as well as  “Last Light Before the Frozen Darkness” and “Entrance to the Dark Universe” , are simply flawless renditions of the era, complete with the mood shifts between cold tremolo blasts (i.e. “Chamber of the Shadowlord”), militant marches (“Celestial Extinction”) and airy, majestic, starry atmospherics (every track at some point). The only thing missing is a guest, Garm clean vocal appearance.

After Swedish death metal and old school American death metal, this sound is probably my next favorite genre and sound and Northwind Wolves have fucking NAILED it with about as quintessential ( I really tried to shoehorn a Borknagar reference in there) of a  delivery as there has been in recent memory . I love, love LOVE this album and it will be a shoe in for my year end list, my only gripe is that its only 30 minutes long, but you know what they say about quality over quantity…

[Visit the band's website]
Written by E. Thomas
May 24th, 2018

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