One thing I do struggle with when it comes to doom music is the vocals. I don't like regular opera, so the likes of Messiah Marcolin's pipes are anathema to me. I like some grit in the voice - not necessarily death growls - at an octave that isn't reserved for dogs. Wolf Counsel certainly fit the mildly operatic style of vocals, and I'm still unsure if I actually enjoyed the vocals of Ralf W. Garcia. However, the music makes up for it in spades.
The album opens with a brief sample, but it's hard to gauge its relevance to the song 'Nazarene' as it's difficult to distinguish what's being said. That aside, the music kicks in strong with a memorable picked riff. But it's when those vocals are let loose that things start to get 'interesting'. I can't decide if the vocals are slightly off-key or not, but they sound a bit 'off'. Yet, they're perfectly in tune with each other when harmonising. It's weird. One thing this album excels at, though, is strong melodies and catchiness. It's not a genre I'd highlight for its memorability, and yet I find these songs working their way through to my brain to a degree that I'm humming them hours later. The overall sound leans heavily toward classic doom metal, with little regard for modernity. And, that's exactly as it should be. Lyrically, it can all get a bit Stonehenge but, given that this genre favours fantasy/religion-based stories in general, I'm not going to roll my eyes too heavily. It pulls me out of enjoying it a little bit, but that's certainly not the fault of Wolf Counsel. Musically, there's very little showboating going on - it's all for the mood - but 'Men of Iron Men of Smoke' presents a little bit of shredding in the lead break. 'Destination Void', the song, revels in its snail pace intro - echoing classics of the genre - with a simple guitar melody to break the tension, before picking up pace. It's a very dynamic piece. 'Staring Into Oblivion' is an epic way to close out the album. It's the longest track, at ten minutes, and mixes the oppressive doom riffing with some very bluesy melodies; at times, echoing Jerry Cantrell's guitar work in Alice in Chains. It's not a strong comparison - a lot of the riffing reminds me of a mix of Melvins, Monster Magnet, Electric Wizard, and Acid King.
I can't fault the atmosphere the band creates; it's consistent, appropriate, and retro. Some may argue it's a bit too safe, by sticking to tried and tested formula and a classic sound. However, I find it comforting that not everyone is trying to reinvent the wheel (god forbid the day someone melds doom with electronica!) Like an old pair of slippers, Wolf Counsel feel comfortable and warming.
Review by Steve Cowan
22nd February 2019
3) Mother of All Plagues
4) Men of Iron, Men of Smoke
5) Destination Void
6) Tomorrow Never Knows
7) Staring into Oblivion
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"The overall sound leans heavily toward classic doom metal, with little regard for modernity. And, that's exactly as it should be."