Review: Wolfheart “Wolves Of Karelia” [Napalm Records]

Review: Wolfheart “Wolves Of Karelia” [Napalm Records]

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In 2012 multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and producer Tuomas Saukkonen closed all his numerous music projects to focus only on the single one. Then Wolfheart was born, a “Winter Metal” project that turned to a full band with time. Since 2013 four albums were released and in April 2020 the new, fifth longplay called Wolves Of Karelia is out too.

The main theme of Wolves Of Karelia is a Winter War 1939-1940, when Soviet Union declared war against Finland. Somehow this topic is close to me: I was born at dawn of the Soviet empire and I learned history a little bit, so it was very interesting to listen to this album and to know how Finns feel about this war. If Soviet Union had some geo-political reasons for it, then for Finland this war became a battle for their country and for their home. Finnish people had the courage to fight and straggle against overwhelming forces of their enemy. “I was born in a small village right on the Russian border, about 15km to the border zone from our family farm,” says Tuomas. “There is a hill with a cannon pointing towards Russia where we used to play as kids and the famous WW2 sniper “White Death”, aka Simo Häyhä, was from the neighboring village… so you could say the history of the war is well remembered in that area. We had 32 tanks against their 3,000 and 114 planes against their 3,800… we had less than 350,000 soldiers against their one million, and yet, still we speak Finnish.”

“Winter Metal”, the genre, which coined by the band is a mix of Melodic Death, Black and some Doom. Pretentious heroic motives are merged here with serene yet dreary, like a winter forest, melodies, creating an interesting and diverse atmosphere. In other words, Wolfheart somehow merges Amon Amarth heroism with dismal calmness of Insomnium, for example. And that’s the best music for the theme of war for the homeland in bleak north forest.

The album contains eight consistent tracks that create great 40-minutes narrative (or even epos), furious, brutal and full of heroic pathos. Nothing interferes with narration and the concept. Even the short instrumental track “Eye Of The Storm” in the middle of the album rather gives the listener in a break in this crazy storm of music and emotions; using strings instruments, keyboards and acoustic guitars add the atmosphere to this track as well.

A distinct heroism, especially marked here in opening “Hail Of Steel” and “Arrows Of Chaos” transforms into brutal Death Metal riffs and growling vocals. The songs are quite melodic though, mainly because of keyboards, which emphasize severe mood beside melodies. In “Horizon Of Fire” pathos disappears without a trace; keyboards and bass create an evil blackness atmosphere and after it the somber and cold Blackened Death covers the listener. Melodism also presented in the song but somehow sporadically, not all the time. The pace, which is changing a couple of times here and brutality that alternates with melody all of this change mood greatly without losing the point of the song.

The fastest and heaviest song here will probably be “The Hammer”: inhuman anger of Black Metal and abnormal Death Metal heaviness somehow manage to merge in quite inspiring (a sort of) music. There is also an interesting melodic solo and great acoustic outro with keyboards and string instruments.

If we’re talking about music heaviness then drummer Joonas Kauppinen’s brilliant work should be mentioned: Wolfheart sounds brutal and aggressive due to him in many ways. His interesting drumming patterns, abnormal playing speed and endless blast beats with double pedal can easily put him in the list of the best drummers of recent years.

All in all, Finns did an interesting and multifaceted creation, beautiful, solid and diverse story about war for their homeland. Maybe I would find some lacks with time but for now I can’t see any. Brilliant work.

Wolves Of Karelia was released on April, 10th via Napalm Records.

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