With black metal at its most «commercial» and creative peak, we are being flooded by all kinds of material, from lousy to excellent, mixed with all kinds of styles, with varied results. Not everything is post black, although it is the most present label since the middle of the last decade. Even, to the delight of the purists, the traditional variants continue to enjoy very good health, surviving all kinds of currents and «intruders».
Among the wide range of sullied styles is hardcore. A mixture that has existed almost since the end of the 90s, without being too popular and that to this day has not improved its commercial situation too much. Understandably, it has never generated, neither yesterday nor today, a kind of movement of its own, separated from the rest. Leaving, instead, a few exceptions in a sea of different groups. There is no blackcore scene as there is in atmospheric blackcore, melodic blackcore… Even if you think your race is superior to the rest, there is a whole movement.
The reasons behind that scarcity don’t really matter, what is important here, is that we have one of the few bands from those species, that brings its own characteristics.
Normally, those bands that mix hardcore with black metal. have a very rooted base in the first style, adding to it tremolos, blast beats and a certain dark aura (HIEROPHANT, ERDVE…). A blackened hardcore/metalcore, to sum it up. And, indeed, this is what the Californians were like on their first EP and album (Loyal to the soil). What is not so usual, is this new step they have taken with The path of wrath. The dose of black metal has increased so much that in many moments it completely dominates the equation, becoming a black band with a certain touch of hardcore. A blind listen to «Wandering soul» can make us forget the roots of WOLF KING, to cite one of the cuts more immersed in the black sludge. And much of the blame for this new identification is due to Timothy Wilson‘s change of register at the microphone, with a perfect raspy voice that is far from what we have seen in previous releases. It is not only that he has changed the hardcore barks, it is also that he has almost completely dispensed with the deep roars that gave WOLF KING a certain touch of death metal. But I don’t consider this 2×1 to be negative, as it seems he has been rehearsing all his life with his new voice, and realistically, it was the best fit for the music.
In the end, among so much tremolo and strummed vocals, only a d-beat will remind us where we are.
Under these coordinates, everything acquires a different nuance. Even the songs more attached to hardcore in their construction as «Sanctuary» or «The path of wrath«, do not get rid of that WATAIN-like painting at any time. Something that can be more or less enjoyed, but when the band enters the slow mode, it turns out to be twice as devastating.
Among so much uncontrolled aggressiveness the band has even, let’s call it, certain attempts of kindness, in which they show themselves a little more accessible. The relaxed parts of «The oath» provide a necessary rest after half an album of continuous attacks and with the other half waiting for nothing more at the end, although more surprising is «Grief portrait». Mot only because its first seconds are similar to «The oath«, but because of the clean dubbed voice that accompanies us in the verses, being likely to hook many listeners who, at first instance, have felt some rejection by so much violence. Because WOLF KING have come to this meeting with the will to smashing everything.
There is no perfect balance between styles, one could argue that perhaps so much black has destabilized the balance more than necessary. But paper holds everything and I think that in this imbalance the guys from California have won, because they are still far from anything that can be considered «black metal» or «post black». The hardcore roots are still there, even if sometimes it’s hard to see them. But it would have been a greater outrage to have made a 180º change to be unrecognizable. And while we must always respect the desire of musicians to evolve, what’s the point if you become just another one of them? WOLF KING, however, are still WOLF KING.