Review: “Mountains And Darkness” by Northwind Wolves

Los Angeles California isn’t the kind of place you’d expect to associate with Black Metal. For one, it’s not a cold, bleak or barren place and the Forests aren’t the dark siren calling kind you’d find in Norway. But none the less, Los Angles is the home of Northwind Wolves who are returning with their follow up to 2017’s “Dark… Cold… Grim...” with sophomore album “Mountains And Darkness“. The promise is a delivery of that sweet cold grim Black Metal that immediately transports the listener to the Carpathian Mountains. Mixed And Mastered by Marcos Cerutti, it seems the band play live with a different drummer to the one who records with them…

…the album starts with the haunting cinematic synths of “Before Dawns First Light” before the a swathe of Children Of Bodom esq guitars sweep through the valley like a whirlwind destroying the crops. Multi-instrumentalist Noor’s vocals are as demonic as they come and if he’s not been an Evil Goblin in his former life then we’d be surprised. Synths add ice to the fire of the guitar sound and with Noor telling a dark tale surrounded by both melody and debauchery, it leaves a lasting impression. “Lord of Winter and Death” has hints of Nekrogoblikon musically but without the comedic aspect of their lyrics. Instead we get dark fireside tale of the coming of the Reaper in the dead of Winter. Bright synths lift the music and carry the weight of the lyrics while the clean and crisp production keeps things sharp. “Death of the Lost World” talks of the opening of the Gates of Hell with blast beats battering against your skull and atmospheric soundscapes of layered synths setting the tone. Despite having a pair of guitars in the mix, the band prefer to use the synths as a big supplement to them, allowing them to envelop the sound, so the synths are as much a lead instrument as anything else.

A blistering face melter of a solo at the start of the helter skelter of “Unholy Forest of Wolves (Pt I)” adds texture to the full throttle battery of kit work and occult lyrical themes. A mid section narrowly avoids descending into chaos as each player plays as fast as they can with a relentless adrenaline rush of riffs that don’t let up until the bitter end, a thrill ride which takes a few listens to get the most out of. A air of despair and grandeur with some impressive whammy bar moments makes “Pale Winter/Storm Lightning” a stand out mid album classic with a solo that rises from the ashes like a Phoenix from the flames of the Lord of Evil himself. “Death descends on wings” indeed. We’ve all had that bitter ending relationship which we simply can not seem to get out of our minds. “Ludmilla the Witch” is the tale of that relationship in glorious technicolor with all the blood and guts on the snow that you could want as Noor descends into madness with spidery synths that add moments of break the relentless artillery shelling of kit work. Title track “Mountains And Darkness” is short and beautifully sweet affair for a title track at just less than three minutes that drags you kicking and screaming through the trees with breakneck speed. The epic nature of the soundtrack is breathless and timeless and by the time the final roar hits, you want at least another couple of minutes.

After a momentary breath “A Knight Called Death” takes a more melodic approach with soaring lead flourishes as our hero vanquishes the hoard in a story of blood and riches, justice and honor. There is a sinister edge to the soundtrack but also hints at a Power Metal influence or two creeping into this wordier tale of cut and thrust. “Unholy Forest of Wolves (Pt II)” takes off with some whammy bar magic before the atmosphere is set by synth layers of grandiosity. The work of bands like Dimmu Borgir springs to mind, like footprints in the snow upon the sound of Northwind Wolves, imprinted on their DNA. This second part of the this story is a wonderful bridge into the frantic “Curse of Ages“, a blinding riff fest of scatter gun kit work and guitar runs of classical style. There isn’t anything you wouldn’t expect but what there is has been crafted into a fine specimen and example of the genre that stands up to the test and when the album ends, you want to push play again [8/10]

Track listing

  1. Before Dawns First Light
  2. Lord of Winter and Death
  3. Death of the Lost World
  4. Unholy Forest of Wolves (Pt I)
  5. Pale Winter/Storm Lightning
  6. Ludmilla the Witch
  7. Mountains and Darkness
  8. A Knight Called Death
  9. Unholy Forest of Wolves (Pt II)
  10. Curse of Ages

“Mountains And Darkness” by Northwind Wolves is out now via Black Lion Records and available over at bandcamp

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