Wolftopia
Ways of the Pack

I will always have love in my heart for Melodic Death Metal. Hand on heart, I’d have to say that Melodeath is the one metal subgenre, more than any other, that most aggressively grabbed my attention and made me fall in love on first listen. Soilwork’s A Predator’s Portrait, In FlamesClayman, Dark Tranquillity’s Damage Done and of course At The GatesSlaughter of the Soul, these were the albums that helped open a whole new world of metal beyond the Metallicas, Panteras and Slayers of the world (absolutely no knock on any of these bands, I just didn’t realize I had other options at the time).

Of course, like anything else, over time the sound became kinda stale and oversaturated, to the point where Melodeath was almost left for dead. Thankfully, or friends from the frozen north of Finland seemed to take it upon themselves to keep the flame alive with their own distinct take on Melodic Death Metal. With Children of Bodom more or less leading the way, followed by the likes of Mors Principium Est, Insomnium and Omnium Gatherum, the Fins injected a new, ultra-melodic shot of energy into the genre, and with old guard bands like Dark Tranquillity, At The Gates and fellow Fins Amorphis once again churning out quality albums (though DT never really stopped), Melodeath is seeing a little bit of a resurgence of late. Hell yeah, I say!

But if its going to continue to survive and thrive, it needs an injection of fresh blood. We’ve gotten some doozies from newer bands like Countless Skies and Hinayana, both of whom are moving the known physical boundaries that we think of for quality Melodeath (both from the UK and USA, respectively) – but of course, sometimes you just gotta go back to the source to find the best of the best, and Finland’s Wolftopia are certainly showing they’ve got the goods to be among the new princes of Melodeath.

One big criticism a lot of folks have about Melodeath at this point, is that there’s perhaps not a whole lot of room for innovation or new approaches, and if I’m totally honest, it’s a fair enough fair enough assessment. Wolftopia is not bringing anything especially groundbreaking to the table. Instead, they’re wearing their influences on their sleeve, and executing at a superb level. You certainly hear a lot of Mors Principium Est‘s all-out, full speed ahead approach on Ways of the Pack –  the band seldom hits the brake pedal from opener “Hound of War” through excellent closer “I Am the Storm.” And much like MPE, the band makes liberal use of synth flourishes and backdrops to wash over the full speed attack, adding an extra layer of depth to their already very full and robust sound. But despite it’s lack of innovation, it’s all pulled off with a great sense of urgency and energy, making for an infectious and highly compelling listening experience. It’s hard not to get wrapped up in the intensity of “The Last Embrace of the Mother,” or the bombastic crowd-pleaser “We Are Pack,” which really does make you want to wrap an arm around your pal’s shoulder and scream along.

Like other Finnish counterparts, this is a band very much dedicated to a theme. Immortal Souls went with the whole “Wintermetal” thing and stuck steadfastly to it. Children of Bodom rode the whole Grim Reaper and Lake Bodom thing for a solid 3 albums (and it never really totally went away). Wolftopia… uh, well, they’re into wolves. A lot. I thought Wolfheart had that pretty well covered, but these dudes have them beat by a long shot! Other wolf-themed titles include “Predator” and “The Alpha” along with all the others already mentioned, so if you’re the kind of guy who’s got a full-window decal on the back of your truck of a wolf howling at the moon – then my dude, this is the band for you! I don’t know how sustainable it is for the long haul, but the aggressive, yet beautiful nature of the music certainly fits the theme very well. Tracks like “The Last Embrace of the Mother” and the aforementioned “The Alpha” certainly attack with a fury of killer, bombastic riffs and breakneck drumming, but those beautiful melodies overlay a sense of intense grace and fluid confidence not unlike that of one of nature’s apex predators. And much like a well-formed pack, every band member is playing their part to keep everything together. While guitarists Aleksander Okhotnikov and Topi Karhunen certainly deserve a ton of credit for keeping up the pace with their intricate riffs and melodies, a huge amount of credit has to go to drummer Tom Israels, who turns in a stellar performance that perfectly compliments everything else going on – especially with his footwork. This is no endless, one-trick-pony double bass assault – he effectively picks and chooses when to put the pedal to the metal, and when to dial back the barrage. I’m tired and sore just listening to his work. He and bassist Tim Reus form as solid and capable a backbone as any rhythm duo you’ll find.

It’s probably fair to say that the world of Melodeath is still filled with a whole lot of generic, all-to-familiar-sounding bands that don’t do a whole lot to grab your attention, and in a lot of cases, you’re probably better off sticking with the tried-and-true legends still out there doing their thing and putting out really quality music (I know I personally cannot friggin’ wait for the new Amorphis record). But more and more, we’re starting to see a few gems emerge from the pack, and Wolftopia is certainly one of them (pun absolutely intended). Ways of the Pack is a high-energy, infectious listen you should absolutely go check out, and Wolftopia is a band I’m very much rooting for. Good boys, very good boys.

 

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Steve K
January 19th, 2022

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