Crossover genres are the best to write about because different trigger phrases and keywords open up in the lexicon of the review. Adjectives usually reserved for black metal get to rear their ugly heads in relation to a thrash record. Images writers love to use for hardcore get to pop up in… black metal reviews. It’s like mixing sweet and savoury, sometimes it just works. Other times you get tacky, way too obvious attempts to cash in on a “Band A but with Band B riffs” gimmick. Wolf King‘s label debut Loyal to the Soil is one of the better mixes. If sweet was modern blackened hardcore and sour European metalcore from days gone by. It’s crossover time, quite apparently.
Wolf King’s first full-length is comfortably black metal enough to ensure it’s not gonna end black-listed anywhere. There’s also more than enough hardcore moments to give it the life to outlive the comparisons to recent years blackened hardcore big-wigs. Loyal to the Soil kicks off like every mean sounding record should, with some buzzing, ominous chords ringing out. It’s all very traditional and refrained in the beginning though, even with the blasting blackness that powers through into the second track. There are some big, brooding, and stomping passages between the wide-eyed, demonic black metal, the pacing not unpleasant either; tracks that blast and stomp and blast stomp tend to lose the momentum after two minutes. It’s not until the first of a double two-parter (check my math on that – Matt) that the Wolf King that landed the Prosthetic deal bare their fangs for the first real, decisive moment.
“Loyal to the Soil I” and it’s cleverly numbered counterpart, “…II”, bring to life the imaginary crowd awaiting their buzzsaw guitars and confident, even cultured metal moments. There’s real structure in these tracks, even outwith the actual structure of the songs themselves. By all accounts still pulling from blackened hardcore elements, Wolf King turn these double acts into miniature movements of magic in the context of the record. Sinister, charming, and colossal in turn, the band goes from scaring the neighbours to putting on a Mogwai record wearing corpse paint. As ridiculous an image, it’s not difficult to image Wolf King playing with more post-metal or rock influences. The thrashing, black metal with beatdowns only works for so long, there’s got to be more; Wolf King has more. Loyal to the Soil has more. It wouldn’t hurt to have just a few more of those moments so good they pull the air out of your lungs, that’s all.
It just feels like there are tracks that had a lot more time spent on, their roots taking shape into far more prominent riff-children. Loyal to the Soil is a totally solid record from a young band getting ready to take on the world. By the time the album comes out where they’re actually right where they need to be, their crossover tag will be dust. They’ll just be Wolf King. Like Power Trip, to name-check one of the most notorious crossover bands plying their noisy trade right now, Wolf King are mixing everything up and making the good stuff come out. It’s fixing to be great stuff though.