Swedes Wolverine have done it again. By which I mean they’ve released another stunning, stunning album packed full with the sort of music will spark every emotion in you into life – maybe even some you didn’t know you were harbouring – in the process completely reaffirming all the reasons why you loved this band in the first place. And if this album will be your first brush with Wolverine – welcome, you’re surely going to enjoy the ride…
A slow, brooding fourteen minute epic might not seem like the best way to kick off an album, but in the hands of Wolverine The Bedlam Overture works just fine. Stately, emotional, and possessed of the first in a series of vocal performances from Stefan Zell that’ll have you proclaiming the man’s brilliance from the rooftops, this is actually the perfect way to ease the listener into the band’s new album.
Next track Machine starts slowly too, kinda like something the latterday Anathema might commit to wax before exploding at the end in an emotionally-charged maelstrom that again puts Zell front and centre in the listener’s consciousness. Machine is Followed by the sombre Pile of Ash, feauring just simple picked guitar and Zell’s heartstring-tugging voice. Moods rise and ebb, the intensity of Zell’s delivery fleshing out the sparse guitar figures, until the song drifts away on the ether leaving the listener wondering whether it was ever there at all.
Our Last Goodbye opens ominously, full of foreboding on the back of a mournful keyboard figure from Per Henrikssen and muted electronic percussion. As soon as human drummer Marcus Losbjer adds a gentle, switchback rhythm the song starts to build in power – very slowly, mind – edgy, urgent guitar low in the mix from Jonas Jonsson building with imperceptible force until again the band releases itself on the excellent, aching chorus. This is masterfully put together stuff, and the band really sound at the top of their game here. And need I mention that Zell puts in another wonderful performance behind the mic?
Pledge is considerably meatier, opening with some chunky riffage, and throwing in some urgent percussion and Zell’s most impassioned vocal to the mix just to reinforce the sense of tension. As this band matures and diversifies it’s sound it’s sometimes difficult to remember just how metal Wolverine were in the early days of the twenty first century, and whilst this track by no means echoes those halcyon metallic times it does go a little way to reminding you just how powerful – in the simplest of senses – this band can be.
When the Night Comes is by no means a stinker but just doesn’t quite carry the emotional heft of what’s gone before; However it does build nicely into a driving, rousing climax, and that tempo and intensity is maintained throughout the excellent Nemesis, wherein the band really flex their muscles musically with some verveful playing and no little heaviness. Everyone throws the best of what they have into the pot, and the results are gratifyingly excellent, with Henrikssen and Jonsson in particular shining in their allotted solo time.
Final track (though some editions do come with a bonus different version of Pile of Ash), the enigmatically-named Sheds, strips things right back to Zell again, fittingly ending the album as it started, bringing a tremble to the bottom lip and a little flutter to the heart. It’s a beautifully fitting way to draw the blinds down on a stunning album, and leaves only one option for the listener when the song finally takes it’s last bow – press play again…