The year is 1986. You are hanging out in the basement with your older brother and three of his friends as they attempt to decode their metal heroes and write their own music. The band members were not selected by a rigorous audition and interview process, but rather out of convenience: your brother, the drummer, has a kit and a cellar large enough for everyone to practice; the bass player owns a van; the singer has a PA system; and the guitarist — the only one who is actively taking lessons — has the “vision.” Try as they may, they are unable to reproduce even a hint of what Judas Priest, Black Sabbath and their other influences have done, but thanks to the inability to record their attempts on anything but a boom box and a Maxell cassette tape, they remain blissfully unaware of their limitations. Such is Sweeden’s Death Wolf, but the year is 2013 and this is their second album; what’s their excuse?
Their sophomore release, Death Wolf II: Black Armoured Death, begins innocently enough with a straightforward 6/8 beat and thick chords, but as soon as Maelstrom’s voice starts, the garage feel is evident. He screams in a high tone, and can’t reach the higher ones he’s aiming for. “Snake Mountain” features a progression of slightly altered power chords that guitarist Makko may have thought were interesting, but they feel immature, not indicative of a group with over ten years under its belt. The songs tend to start out at one level and stay there, whether it’s slow and plodding or pounding and heavy, and this makes songs like “Rothenburg” feel laborious. “Lord of Putrefacation” is the worst of these as Maelstrom attempts, with painful results, to sing in earnest.
The highlights on the album are the moments where Death Wolf becomes a doom-thrash-punk band. “World Serpent” and and “Black Armoured Death” are fast, effective bites of hardcore, hearkening back to bands like Cryptic Slaughter and the Accused, where simple and sloppy are a winning combination. The bulk of the the album is silly and uninspired, and hard on the senses. It might be fun to watch these guys practice on a Saturday afternoon, but they probably sound best in the drummer’s basement.