Wolves of Hate - Battle Hymns and War Songs
Iron Age Records
Viking/Death Metal
9 songs (37'12")
Release year: 2008
Reviewed by Alex

Let’s avoid the whole lengthy master thesis-sized debate on what constitutes Viking metal. Whether the band has to play a certain amount of black, death and thrash, or whether it has to incorporate gang vocals by the fire, or authentic ancient instruments, or it has to have certain lyrics to be considered a Viking metal band. I vote for a much simpler definition – for as long as the band itself feels that they truly represent the spirit of the wondering Northmen according to their own vision, I say let’s afford them a place in the genre. Sure, the ranks will swell, but what the hell …

Wolves of Hate call Colorado home, not Scandinavia, but they so truly believe in the rousing fighting nature of their music they have settled for the most straightforward title – Battle Hymns and War Songs. The songs themselves are worthy title descendants, direct, but catchy, focused pretty much on two sets of riffs. Not sure what is really blackened on this album, Wolves of Hate can semi-pummel you with rolling double bass (chorus of Chaos in the Skies), but most of the time they prefer to downshift the tempo and engage in tight lockstep old school death metal groove. Just like the Viking shield wall, the stance is resolute and determinate, but hardly varied and vibrant. The band concerns themselves little with such silly things as solos, leads and melody, traces of distorted tremolo differentiating Berserker and the closer Triumph in Flames. Unleashed and Amon Amarth have successfully shown that these simple riffs can convert into powerful and engaging songs, and nobody calls those two hordes sissies for showing a little melodic flair. Wolves of Hate attempt at liveliness (Skol) or introspective diversification (acoustic/distorted guitar interplay on instrumental Dirge for the Fallen) can not remedy the fact that the album is way too one-dimensional. The beginning of Blood, Death, Honor simply flows out of the end of Lords of War, you would not be able to tell where one ends and the other begins without a CD player display. Peter Slivkanch’s vocals, very legible, harsh, but monochromatic, exclamations also do not help matters much. This style works for Johnny Hedlund perfectly, but somehow I can hum Victims of War in my sleep, yet after the Wolves of Hate album stops playing, it is not so easy to distinguish between these Battle Hymns and War Songs.

If you hear one Wolves of Hate song on a compilation, you will be off to search for your rusted battle axe immediately, but more is needed for a full album. This debut full-length mercifully lasts 37 min, so in no way it is boring, besides production is rather sharp and thundering, making for an appropriately powerful sound. However, what we have is a solid, sturdy skeleton, strong bones in need of quite a bit of meat to be put on them. If Amon Amarth only played the intro to Victorious March over and over again (and it is one awesome war march as we all know), they would not be one of the most popular bands worldwide these days. The Victory/Warrior fans of early to mid-Unleashed would find a lot to like here, but I am sure Wolves of Hate would not be satisfied with being labeled a “perfect opening act” for the Swedes when the latter are in town. Not being afraid of letting the melody flow and diversifying those drum patterns ought to turn the trick next time around.

Killing Songs :
Chaos in the Skies, Berserker, Triumph in Flames
Alex quoted 65 / 100
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