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Call of the Nightwolves (2003)

Vargsang began as the solo project of the former vocalist of the German black metal band Graven. Call of the Nightwolves is the first full-length album to emerge, following this split, released by Undercover Records in March 2003. One has to wonder how necessary it was, given that it came just over one year after Graven's debut album, Perished and Forgotten. Oftentimes, when band members part ways, some feel the strong urge to get right back into the thick of things, to avoid wasting time and to prove something to the other party. At any rate, this was only a good thing for fans of this style, as it provided them with another record in the same vein.

It is hard to differentiate this material from that of Graven. For the most part, this is exactly the same and there is nothing here that could not have been found on Perished and Forgotten. The musical approach is rather minimalist, taking cues from the early 90s Norwegian bands, particularly the early output from Darkthrone and Burzum. There is a grim and mournful quality to the music, coming off much more naturally than on Armagedda's first record, for example. Call of the Nightwolves is filled with memorable riffs that sound much more well-developed than a good number of the other bands that utilize this style. While the songs are rather straightforward, they do possess enough variation to retain the listener's interest. Though a good amount of the songwriting features cold tremolo riffs and fast-paced drumming, there are sections where the drum patterns will switch from the minimalist techniques of Fenriz to something more akin to Varg's work on the old Burzum releases. The guitar melodies, themselves, create a sombre and epic atmosphere. The arrangements include mid-paced riffs as well, thoughtfully placed to accentuate the haunting vibe. This can be clearly heard on tracks like "Whores of the Light". The vocals are reminiscent of Nocturno Culto's efforts on the early Darkthrone albums. There is no real question as to who Vargsang's primary influences are, here. This is an obvious case of a band that was strongly influenced by the Second Wave bands, while probably possessing little knowledge of those that came before. For example, if one hears any Bathory influence on this album, it is most likely to to the fact that Quorthon's music made such an impact on the composers of Under A Funeral Moon and Transilvanian Hunger, rather than any direct connection. This is not necessarily a bad thing, though it does expose certain limitations.

The production is rather filthy, though not so much when compared to the albums that Call of the Nightwolves is attempting to emulate. This is very similar to the first Graven record, though with a little more fuzz on top of everything. The mix is fairly good, with the main emphasis placed on the guitar melodies, rather than on anything else. The guitar tone is not as cold as it should have been, but it still retains a harshness that adds to the music. The vocals possess a decent amount of reverb, but not so much as to ruin the natural feelings of hatred that are being conveyed. The drumming shows an improvement over that found on Perished and Forgotten, being buried a little more in the mix and also lacking the annoying double-bass parts.

In the end, there is absolutely nothing on Call of the Nightwolves that has not been heard before. Nonetheless, Vargsang proves very competent in creating more raw black metal that will, doubtlessly, appeal to any fan of the aforementioned bands. This material is a bit more primitive than that of the Graven debut, and suits the style much better. While it does not break new ground, this album is one of the more worthy efforts in keeping alive the minimalist spirit of the old Darkthrone records.
(10 Mar. 2012)

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