My partner got me a smartwatch/fitness tracker for the holidays this year (sure, I could lose a few pounds, but it was also something I wanted). Funny how something on your wrist that tracks your activity guilts you into more movement (at least for now).
Given that it’s very cold here in the northeast, that’s meant a lot of very frigid, bundled-up walks. Thankfully, I’ve had what might be the frostiest record this side of Skeletonwitch to keep me company while I freeze my (hopefully shrinking) ass off.
Wolf King’s brand of blackened metallic hardcore has only become more vibrant and vivacious on The Path of Wrath, their second outing for Prosthetic Records. Their previous effort, Loyal to the Soil, was a bit more death-y, more akin to groups like Gaza and Trap Them, with a layer of frost-bitten black metal over everything.
Now, that layer has become the central focus, resulting in a record positively snowed over in an avalanche of atmosphere and fury. Wolf King’s sound has always been tough to truly pin down, but with The Path of Wrath it’s now, even more, their own.
Interestingly enough, a band I keep being reminded of is oft-forgotten metalcore heroes Zao, less so in sound than in flair and execution. It’s clear that if you listen very closely, the best parts of the ’90s metalcore movement are alive with Wolf King, and the hardcore edge is a vital part of the success of The Path of Wrath. However, those sonic aspects are the most notable or even most obvious here.
The second-wave black metal influence is obvious, as is what I’d call the mystical leads of groups like Nightbringer. Album highlights like “Wandering Soul” and “Incantation” are imbued with sludgy grime and black metal majesty in equal measure, while more experimental ditties like “Grief Portrait” and “Eternal Hunger” play with prog and death metal just for fun.
That’s probably the most important aspect at play here, because amidst all the unique styles and harrowing riffs, this record is a blast. While this doesn’t really sound like Skeletonwitch (save for a similar artistic style), both bands understand that extreme metal can be a damn good time if you let it. Sure, The Path of Wrath is a delightfully dark listen, full of existential angst and an exploration on forgiveness in a grim world; however, that beautiful lyrical catharsis only augments the sense of fun rather than detracting from it.
Metal, at its best, is a bunch of frustrated people screaming and partying together as we all march toward the abyss. Wolf King totally embodies that on what may go down as one of—if not the —best metal record of 2021.
Preorder this excellent album here.