Wolvennest has offered a unique take on psychedelic black and doom metal since their formation in 2015, emphasizing the haziness and sprawling layers of psychedelia with the metal side providing some harsher accents when the music needed it. 2018’s VOID was my proper introduction to the band, and while it sometimes went on for a little too long the emphasis on repetition and build-ups resulted in some incredible atmosphere. 2020’s Temple stretched things out even further into methodical and even droning territory, and while I enjoyed it the length did prove to be a detractor and some of the songwriting felt like a retread. In the time that’s passed the band was involved in The Nest side project for Roadburn (which came out in recorded form last year), and now they’ve returned with The Dark Path To The Light. With this effort they’ve gone for a shorter and more direct assault on the senses, channeling some of the driving tempos of 2019’s Vortex EP while reaching some of their most entrancing levels to date.
What’s impressed me about Wolvennest throughout their career is how full their sound is right from the very start. This is shown on The Dark Path To The Light through intro “Lost Civilizations”, as from the first note there’s already a haunting melody that has an air of mystery to it, encouraging the listener to dive deeper. As it builds, the drums bring in a more methodical cadence and acoustic guitars come in for a sound that feels somewhere between post rock and neofolk. Once “Adversaries” comes in, the instrumentals spend a minute or so building up more haunting layers before a driving tempo comes in and the guitars incorporate some abrasive edges that have more black metal influence. This song establishes a common theme for what is to come, the interplay of harsher, dark riffs and soaring melodies that have an ethereal tone. It’s appropriate given the title, and it makes for a listening experience that has the jaggedness and bite black metal and doom metal fans can appreciate alongside the sprawling atmosphere and entrancing nature of psychedelic rock. The brevity works well for Wolvennest, and the faster tempos and more direct approach reminds me a lot of Vortex but taken to an entirely new level. From “Deathless Love” to the title track might be the best run of songs the band has ever had, though that’s not to say the other half of the album is lacking. “Deathless Love” quickly establishes a guitar loop that has a darker edge to it, which only builds in intensity until it reaches its conclusion, keeping you on edge for its entirety. “The Timeless All and Nothing” lets more of that harshness through initially with slower black metal leads and a huge sound, but around the halfway point the psych haze breaks through and twists things into something stunning. The title track opts for the other side of the aisle, letting the melodies build into their most ethereal levels for a sound that’s powerful yet warm and inviting. There’s a level of focus and precision here that makes each moment impactful, and some of these peaks feel like what Wolvennest has been hinting at since the very beginning.
Earlier releases from Wolvennest had a bit more back and forth when it came to vocal arrangements, and while other members still provided backing arrangements on Temple, Shazzula has really become the face of the band on that front over the past few releases. Her singing has only seemed to get stronger and more powerful in the years since VOID, moving between ethereal chants and more direct and in your face singing that has a lot more bite to it. “Deathless Love” has some gruffer backing vocals (which I suspect to be Déhà) that gives a more ominous tone when combined with Shazzula’s verses, while “Accabadora” finds her adopting an eerie chant/scream and shrieks that close out the album on a tense yet still inviting note. The most surprising piece of The Dark Path To The Light is “The Timeless All and Nothing”, as Misþyrming’s D.G. makes an appearance with his usual intense screams taking on a different form over top of Wolvennest’s twisting and turning riffs.
By taking a more streamlined and direct approach, Wolvennest has amplified the rougher black metal edges of their sound while also allowing enough time for the hazy psychedelic elements to reach stunning peaks. Some may miss more of the droning and stretched out doom aspects, so it’s really a matter of taste if this clicks with you more than VOID or Temple. But for my own tastes, this type of songwriting is something I’ve been interested in hearing a full album of since Vortex came out and they’ve nailed it. Another end of year highlight for 2023, and I can’t wait to see where the band goes from here. The Dark Path To The Light is available from Ván Records.
-Review by Chris Dahlberg