With their latest release Still, Wolverine continue both their ascendancy towards prog metal’s elite and a rescinding of their more metallic roots. A furthering of their unique mixture of highly charged yet tranquil music, this release can only add more ambivalence to Wolverine’s position in the metal world. No matter my preference against some of their more recent tendencies, Wolverine still has much to offer in spite of their style. Even as I pine for their more metallic days of old, hearing more and more sounds, structures, and ideas I normally distrust, this band continues to offer moments of intense emotion despite teetering upon disaster at times. The passion and originality of their music writing is undeniable, and for that alone they should be considered a bright spot in prog metal today.Like their last release, Wolverine’s third full-length has its fair share of slowed-down, tranquil, metal-less compositions. In addition, unfortunately there is no return to any death vocals to add some bite to their sound. Still does indeed offer Wolverine’s usual diverse songwriting, emotional singing, and mature sound however, but it is also missing memorable tracks with the exception of the album’s opener. “House of Plague,” is easily the most attractive, complete, and metallic song on the album, and it shows why my remorse at Wolverine’s move away from a harder sound is not simply for the sake of a harder sound. Stefan Zell’s emotional vocals, always a highlight of Wolverine, hold a special distinction and cut particularly well through a fuller, metallic sound. “House of Plague” again demonstrates this as his singing blends beautifully with the more electrically charged music behind him. The song also nicely mergers its energy with softer moments, proving that Wolverine are on top when they place their penchant for tranquility alongside harder, energetic music rather than having it stand alone. “Bleeding” and “And She Slowly Dies” also seek the usually successful blend of energy and tranquility, but are simply not as strong as “House of Plague.” These tracks contrast strongly with “Taste of Sand,” “Nothing More,” and “Hiding” which are laid back from beginning to end. All three tracks are average in part when wearing your super-sogged sensitivity shoes, but downright cringing all other times even when not donning your black metal regalia. “Hiding” in fact seems to be an experiment mixing a slower version of Bruce Hornsby with a harder Air Supply. To quote a Dodge Hemi commercial, “That can’t be good.” Before you can dismiss the album however, “Sleepy Town” offers a dreamy, grooving drive deceptively attractive. The Outfield meeting Dido can hardly be considered metal, but that’s how it is with Wolverine. “Liar on the Mount” returns to more metallic moments, but its chuggy riffs, pseudo-Near Eastern leads, and numerous George Bush sound bites make it one of the least likeable on the album. “This Cold Heart of Mine” seems like a title from an earlier Wolverine album. With some of the heavier riffing and vocals on the album, a touch of Bee Gees’ flair, and some prog rock keyboards, this track somehow holds its eclectic maneuverings together. Unfortunately, the end product is only average.

At album’s end, the music adds up to be Wolverine’s weakest album in my opinion. Continuing to chart their own way and create their own sound, Wolverine still offer one of the more introspective and concerned sounds in metal today however. Though I don’t favor their direction towards an entirely softer sound often devoid of traditional metal components, their talent and uniqueness has me looking forward to each album. With each release there are some songs I’d rather throw out to Main Street, yet other nearby tracks are distinct and imbued with a strength that comes from mature songwriting rather than blast beats. Though less on this album for me personally, passion and originality always creep in somewhere and keep me recommending Wolverine despite recognizing their sometimes shaky ground. Though their albums still seem to be under most fans’ radar, they strike me as works which I might pick up 20 years from now and appreciate even more. Whether now or in the future, The Window Purpose is still the first Wolverine I’ll reach for however. Still may be the most recent album, but it’s not the best.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Tim Dodd
June 7th, 2006


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