Review: Wolfbrigade

Wolfbrigade Damned Southern Lord

The guys at Southern Lord have really been making a play for world domination lately. If you stick with this blog you’ll find that the Captain and I have a real fascination with their catalog. When we heard that the new disc from Swedish d-beat veterans Wolfbrigade was coming out on Southern Lord we were, needless to say, breathless with expectation. I am happy to report that it does not disappoint.

First a little history. In 1986, I was living just outside of Nottingham in the U.K. Notts was a great place to be if you were a punk rocker kid in those days. I was hanging out at the Salutation in Nottingham when word went around that Anti-Cimex were coming over from Sweden to do a couple of shows. We were all pretty stoked. I traveled the hour or so to Birmingham with the Concrete Sox guys, who had sort of taken me under their wing. We met up with Anti-Cimex and Agoni, another Swedish band, before their show at a pub called the Mermaid (as I recall, Heresy played that night as well).

It was under these circumstances that I met Jonsson, the singer for Anti-Cimex and, incidentally, one of the persistently drunkest people I have ever encountered. About ten minutes after I met him, Sean from Concrete Sox and myself had the pleasure of trying to keep him from beating the shit out of some guy (who kind of deserved it, to be fair) with a bullet belt. At the show in Nottingham a few days later, Jonsson, who was totally rat-assed (and from what I could tell had been so constantly in the intervening period) planted himself beside the front door to the gig. Whenever anyone would go in, he would wave a picture of himself in their face and say very earnestly, “Me.” Of course, being totally lit had no discernible adverse effects, either on Jonsson’s performance or on those of his bandmates. Anti-Cimex played two blistering sets while being absolutely pickled in lager.

The presence of Jonsson was a big selling point for me of the early Wolfpack discs. As in Anti-Cimex, his vocals were gruff, but you could understand what he was saying, which for me was a plus. Those early Wolfpack releases, especially A New Dawn Fades and Lycanthro Punk, were a real step forward for the d-beat style. As Anti-Cimex had begun to do on Country of Sweden, Wolfpack differentiated themselves from the d-beat pack by adding a melodic element to their approach which made their simple, straightforward song structures noticeably more effective. Bands like Crude SS and Asocial were great, but a little melody mixed gave the style in general a bit more punch and variety.

Wolfbrigade, the band that Wolfpack became have had mixed results in terms of quality since they parted ways with Jonssen in 1998. Progression/Regression, released in 2001, set the tone for a lot that came later. The songs were good, but lacked the cutting edge of their earlier material. Their new release, the first since Comalies four years ago, marks a triumphant return to form for the band. Throughout their existence, Wolfbrigade have consistently delivered bludgeoning punk rock. On Damned, the quality of song writing once again rises to the level of those early releases. The melody is more in evidence that it has been for the last several releases, and it is accompanied by production that is slicker, but crucially thicker than their recent offerings. They also seem to have branched out a bit stylistically. There are moments when this disc sounds like Motorhead. At other times, one can discern something that sounds like black metal, especially on “From Beyond,” which contains a passage that sounds a lot like Dissection’s “Where Dead Angels Lie.” All of this is very much to the good. The crucial thing about this record is that the level of aggression has been upped along with the melodic content, perhaps not to the level of Disfear, but enough to ensure that this disc will be getting plenty of spins here in the bunker.

Magadh

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