In further proof of Metal’s worldwide appeal, dropped-out troupe Age Of The Wolf hail from Costa Rica. There’s pedigree in the ranks too, with ex-Corpse Garden six-stringer Christopher de Haan at the forefront of their sound, and the Extreme Metal experience of the quartet lends a seriously hard edge to Stoner-flavoured debut Ouroboric Trances (Aural Music).
A crystal-clear production adds fire to the sinister hostility of opener ‘Herald Of Abyssos’: a dense crawl through low chords and all manner of harsh and clean vocals. The riff is colossal, adding flesh to the robust drums of Gabriel Ortiz, the pulverising coda carrying the deathly Doom of Coffins. There’s a real Sludge feel to the crushing Stoner of the ensuing ‘Unholy’, which blends Alice In Chains‘ more sombre moments with the delivery of a group of zombies. Despite the odd dropped beat there’s a pleasing cohesion that joins the brief melodies and raw anger seamlessly, and this is further apparent in the monstrous, Inter Arma-like ‘Goliath’: a Blackened squall of fulminating noise giving way to a Jazzy lead interlude, before spitting forth melancholy with a passionate bitterness and numerous time changes that skilfully tell a story rather than disturb the mood.
The sinister jangle of lead guitars is largely the mood changer here, and it’s an absolute delight. Mixing Eastern flavours with a coarse, slothlike brutality, ‘The Crimson Penitence’ is an electrifying ride through an enemy-infested castle on the back of a hulking, lascivious reptile: while tribal tubthumping introduces ‘Goddess Of The Hunt’, which flicks from a pared-back Skeletonwitch to wailing NWOBHM squeals, through eerie atmospherics. The stirring ‘Witches’ Gallows’, however, shows the true invention of this band: opening with a haunting fiddle solo before delicate leadwork takes over, as meaningful as it is ominous. The sound suddenly explodes into a mid-paced lament, that fiddle inducing tears with its histrionic yet heart-melting coda.
The cavernous battery returns with ‘Bloodrage’, a bruising yet brooding encounter with more thunderous drums and dual vocals. The second period adopts a bar-room setting, buzzing riffs and howling leads leading into a fuzzed-out finale. Closer ‘Molten Earth’ displays more of that creativity, Jorge Camacho‘s bass underpinning all manner of eerie hisses and wails which lead into a scary, atmospheric Death-Doom monstrosity. Despite a fairly basic buzzsaw riff the goosebumps are frequently triggered by more howling leadwork and harrowing screams that shake the soul. The final third sees a pensive mood return with a Cornell-esque plaintive roar, a Trad feel enlivened by some truly emotive soloing. It’s a shattering way to finish an album of alarming, powerful twists and turns with its roots firmly in old-school Metal, and which shows a huge amount of promise in its protagonists. Well worth a number of spins.