Dublin can be a dark place. Between the decaying estates and dark alleys of a debt-ridden city, there’s enough grime and detritus to fuel any number of nightmares.
It’s heartening to see how far a product of its environs, Wölfbait, have come in the brief 18 months or so since their formation. This reviewer caught one of their early gigs just over a year or so ago, and this is a completely different animal.
Containing members of various well-known local groups (including Drainland, Disguise, Wild Rocket etc), it seems things have now solidified in their camp.
The record hardly bears a resemblance to that hesitant gig. It’s big, solid and menacing sounding.
The first hint of the group showing some serious potential was when they provided live backing music for the excellent Paper Dolls ‘Constellations’ show in this year’s Dublin Fringe Festival.
Hovering, insistent drones – backed up by tortured vocals, guitar and piston-perfect drums provided a perfect backdrop to that show. The group had clearly achieved a strong grasp of how to produce merciless, pounding music.
Opener, ‘Gasp’, pulls together a number of different vocal lines, a pitch-black guitar section and constant drumming to create an impressively unsettled vibe that would have Godflesh circa ‘Streetcleaner’ nodding along grimly.
There’s also an ability to rock out when they want to. Track two is built around an insistent but still killer riff, which seems to slowly sink into a swamp of distortion and feedback. The piecemeal deconstruction of what sounded like a far more catchy number speaks volumes for the group’s intent throughout the album.
It’s punishing on many levels. A constant, magnetic buzz is projected constantly throughout – present throughout every track, as if your left stereo speaker has been invaded by some alien glitch.
This helps to add to the unsettlingly intent of the album. A strong, beefy production and the note-perfect drumming (especially on the hammering ‘Aftertaste’) adds to the sense of erosion that seems to be projected here. All the while, a higher pitched vocal seems to waver over everything like a gibbering ghost on the edge of hearing.
‘Eyeless Skull’ perhaps showcases the group’s diverse noise-making at its best. Janging guitar gives way to some genuinely hate-filled vocals, and the various samples and effects slide in from the edges of audibility. Again, the thumping drums nail all this to floor.
Closer – ‘Hawthorn Rattle’ is a far more peaceful affair, almost an extended epilogue to the debris of the main body of the album. It passes, slowly, with only a rumour of the aggression that came before.
There’s plenty here for fans of aggressive, heavy music to enjoy. With touches of the pure hate of early Swans, Melvins circa ‘Bullhead’ and the more malevolent aspects of ambient drone, it’s got a good mix of totally aggressive sound going on.
If you’re after sonic nihilism, it’s a good local contender for attacking your eardrums. Maximum volume yields maximum results,
The question now is if they can use this fine debut as a basis for refining their raw power into something even more twisted and interesting.
3.7 / 5 – Lorcan Archer ::: 01/12/12