It’s not often that a one-man project can be a super group, but Tuomas Saukkonen is no ordinary man. He has been in Before the Dawn and Black Sun Aeon, so if you have any familiarity with those bands, you will know what to expect. Wolfheart plays a chilly, dark style of death/doom with blackened edges, which means it embodies Scandinavian Winter perfectly. The songs are even linked to winter, with lyrics full of northern winter imagery: ice and snow, deep woods and frozen lakes, darkness and frost. If someone were able to hear colors, Winterborn would be two shades: bright snow white and white-covered forest green.
This singular focus on creating a certain mood and atmosphere generally helps steer Wolfheart’s debut along successfully. Songs pair well with the lyrical themes of loss and longing. The music is certainly sweeping and intense. By God, is Winterborn intense; this is not for the faint of heart, but neither is the Scandinavian Winter. Most of the album floats along in the mid-paced doomy style, though a couple stand out. “Strength and Valor” has a nice galloping pump that would amp any man into battle. Also, lead track “The Hunt” is a pretty fine piece of folky metal.
Of course, this focus does create some problems. Wolfheart isn’t offering up an exceptionally varied release, so individual tracks aren’t as memorable as the whole album experience. Also, much of the album traffics in “epic” metal territory, but Winterborn doesn’t feel exceedingly epic, moreso morose and introspective. While Wolfheart is a definite success, Tuomas has certainly done better with his other bands, but you can hear why he chose to pursue this latest project. Wolfheart has all the focus and attention of a passion project, though it could still use some refinement and musical diversity to take it to the next level. (Nicholas Senior)