This Blackwulf article was written by Josh Hummerston, a GIGsoup Contributor. Edited by Hazel Webster
California do three things well: bridges, beaches and Stoner Rock. Straight out of Oakland, Blackwulf bring their brand of doom inspired riffing wizardry to the masses on their latest LP ‘Oblivion Cycle’, which is set to be released in December.
For a band who pride themselves on openly showing influence from their forebears, it would be a forgivable offense to assume that they may fall by the wayside with a multitude of other ‘replica’ bands that have arisen in recent times.
Whereas some bands may unwittingly fall under the bracket of this so called ‘nostalgia music’, others manage to carry the torch and let it burn brighter than ever. In their latest venture Blackwulf unleash a frantic heap of songs that provide a no frills, Sabbath-esque riff fest that sports a wicked intensity throughout.
The opening track ‘Colossus’ sounds every inch as titanic as its name implies, with gargantuan riffs writhing in their animated frenzies, each relaying as much power and vigour as the last, advancing the song through varying dynamics and nuances.
Bouncy and energetic rhythm sections give way to perfectly executed guitar solos that administer the sufficient doses of indulgent Rock and Roll showmanship whilst still adding to the over encompassing makeup of the song. This is both an inspiring and commendable trait by any means. Blackwulf’s most endearing characteristic may observed through this very ability to make what they’re playing feel both natural and organic.
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In this day and age, solos tend to fall upon many a deaf ear due to being oversaturated, self-indulgent and hedonistic by their very nature. Blackwulf are a band that make this showmanship part of their spectacle, part of their being. A sound that flawlessly encapsulates the bands roots whilst at the same time marking them as something more than a just a nostalgia band.
For a majority of the album we are treated to much of the same ilk, as backbreaking grooves intertwine amongst galloping rhythms atop the ever fluctuating persona of vocalist Alex Cunningham who at times conjures a likeness to 70’s rock legend Dan McCafferty of Nazareth fame, whereas in other instances bluesy vocalization styles take centre hold, thus implying a long and wealthy wide ranging list of influences from across the musical spectrum.
The band’s single ‘The Locust’ is awash with typical characteristics of the stoner rock genre. Down register riffing and groove lead rhythmic patterns make the centrepiece of the band’s dark yet upbeat sound. Atop of this bluesy guitar solos furnish the songs with lashings of melody and the acrobatic prowess that are so indispensable to the band’s distinguished and definitive sound.
Momentarily the crushing riffs and bass laden grooves subside to reveal one of the bands more subtle and atmospheric tracks, ‘Dark Tower’. The track highlights in particular Sabbath’s overriding influence upon the band through a combination of engrossing and fantastical lyrical content. ‘Dark Tower’ succeeds in creating a thematic landscape that echoes the likes of Zeppelin, albeit a much darker and brooding contemporary, but nevertheless just as captivating.
After this brief reprieve the band return to rain more installments of doom laden rock madness upon the listener on tracks such as ‘Wings of Steel’ and ‘March of the Damned’ with none relenting in either intensity or the strong song writing consistency that has become so apparent in ‘Oblivion Cycle’.
Operating under the premise of bringing the old school back to the modern day, Blackwulf have always run the risk of creating material that may become stagnant in a world that’s seen it all before. Fortunately, this risk is severely diminished when the band in question are writing music that is more invigorating, fresh and more accessible than their predecessors.
With such strong writing chops and an invigorating feeling of authenticity surrounding them, Blackwulf carve their name into the history books, marking themselves as the flagbearers for stoner rock in 2015.
‘Oblivion Cycle’ is out on the 11th December 2015 via Ripple Music.