Label: Self released
Maybe I’m kinda naive, but I never expected to be reviewing an album quite like this. OK, sure, I know black metal has gone to some strange places since its inception, but generally speaking, most of those places have upped either the weird (such as DHG or Arcturus), or taken the genre in to further realms of violence and extremity (do I really need to pick out examples?). But Icelandic one-man band Show My Wolves introduce what, to these ears, is a definite millennial post-hardcore influence, as well as more than a touch of progressive metal. I’m sure that’s put a lot of people off right from the start, which is a shame, as Between Man, God And False Idols actually works quite well. There’s a few moments that jar, but on the whole the different styles work together better than would be expected, with the end result being an album that, when it hits its heights, is really quite emotive and powerful.
Any doubts should quickly be cast aside by the first few tracks. They’re the sort where the different styles flow together so well that you don’t really realise that you’re in to a “post-hardcore moment” until you’re already halfway through it – and even then, it’s debatable just when they really happen. The black metal on offer mostly brings to mind bands like Mgla, who fit securely within the boundaries of black metal, but always feel as if they’re pushing outwards, seeing just how far they can take things. It’s decidedly creative, bolstered by a strong production that lets everything come through clearly – a big plus, considering how technical-yet-tuneful tracks like opener “The Lies Of His Sons” are, with guitar leads that wouldn’t sound out of place on both a black metal record or the harder, more creative stuff that Level Plane used to put out. Don’t think that this means the album is some technical wank-fest, though; there are plenty of moments of raw, unrestrained power, where riffs, leads, strong bass, and pounding drums all lock together to trample you with icy metal. Even some of the more technical tracks, such as “Amongst Us”, maintain a feel of real force, whilst “False Beings” is one of the best tracks I’ve heard this year, combining true metal force with stirring emotional highs, as well as some classic Nordic black metal leads and melodies. It’s all that is good about Between Man, God and False Idols distilled in to six minutes.
As mentioned earlier though, there’s a few moments I’m not so sold on. Whist the majority of the vocals are absolutely fine – a strong black metal rasp and howl – the clean vocals on tracks such as “Sea Of Trees” don’t always work so well, falling a bit short of the intended Viking-era Bathory majesty; and the spoken word sections on closer “Beyond The Sun” don’t reach the heights aimed for (though the instrumental mid section makes me imagine Hot Cross as a metal band, which is something that gets me very excited). Likewise, some of the more overtly progressive tracks don’t manage their contrasts so well, which leaves “Unknown Reflections” feeling more bloated and less focused than other songs on the album (though conversely, I can imagine people more in to progressive metal than myself ranking it as one of the better tracks on Between Man, Gods And False Idols).
Ultimately, I think the vast array of styles and variety on offer may be both the strength and weakness of the album. At its best, it means that songs are exciting, flowing smoothly from one section to another, switching styles so cleanly that you don’t realise it’s happened until well after the fact. But it also means that Between Man, Gods And False Idols can feel like a disjointed listen at times, more a collection of songs than a singular album. This criticism should be taken in context, though – when those songs hit their heights and are at their best, as on “False Beings”, they are superlative, and the positives more than outnumber the negatives. This is a very ambitious album, and whilst it’s not quite the finished article, it does hint at a very promising future. This album’s good; I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the next is absolutely killer.
Between Man, God And False Idols can be streamed and downloaded via Bandcamp.