Label: False Beings Productions
In August last year, Icelandic one-man band Show Me Wolves released one of the more varied and interesting debuts to have come to my attention in some time, in the form of Between Man, God And False Idols. I remarked at the time that, whilst not the finished article, it was certainly worthwhile, and hinted at a very promising future. Well, that future is here in the form of new album The World They Took Over, and I’m very glad to say that the promise previously hinted at has come to the fore. The same sense of ambitious song-writing and melding of genres – including black, death, and progressive metal – is present, but the sense of continuity and flow is vastly improved upon. Whereas Between Man… felt like a collection of (admittedly, very good) songs, The World They Took Over feels like an album, making the follow-up a much more consistent, thrilling listen.
After the requisite synth-heavy intro “Birth”, the album proper gets going with “Tablua Rasa”, which opens with the kind of delightful, technical riff that belongs to no genre save that of extreme metal. High-energy passages sit along more spacious, restrained moments and lumbering riffs, and it is remarkable how well they all work together. It is a restless beast, full of energy, constantly shifting from one movement and style in to the next, and that is something that holds true across The World They Took Over as a whole. It’s clear that sole member Hörður Lúðvíksson has made his priority to simply write good, flowing songs rather than ensure he stays within a set genre or style, and there’s no denying his success in this. Stirring riffs and leads abound, with far too many that are worthy of praise for me to attempt to list here; there are numerous instrumental passages in the songs, but the quality of the musicianship on display ensures they stay interesting, without ever coming across as self-indulgent or gratuitous.
But aside from any technical or musical descriptors of the music, as impressive as it undoubtedly is, what makes The World They Took Over such a rewarding, thrilling listen is the atmosphere and energy it puts across. Undeniably intense, there is a relentless, oppressive nature to the record, with a sense of paranoia in tracks like “Exit The Realm Of The Living”, which features an excellent, crushing death metal opening that sits well alongside more spacious, yet still uncomfortable, riffs before moving in to a star-gazing final section, full of dark wonder. “Transparent Figures” is downright unsettling in the way it shifts from its relatively sedate opening in to its frantic, anxious main body, the effect of which is further enhanced when the tempo slows back down again.
There are far too many examples like this to mention, but suffice to say that each track on here has obviously had lots of time, energy, and skill devoted to it, and the results are very much worthwhile. There are still points I can pick out as favourites, though; such as the small, melodic guitar turns early on in “Gates In The Shadows”, or the winding, technical guitar leads that abound during third track “Mother”, which make me think as much of millennial technical hardcore as much as they do tech-metal. It gives the track a slightly different edge and feel, and works very well indeed.
Overall, The World They Took Over is exactly the kind of album you’d hope to hear following an ambitious, if slightly rough-around-the-edges debut. The songwriting is sharper, the movements flow in to one another in a more satisfying way, and the overall mood and feel is much more consistent, making it work as both an album and a collection of songs. Given that Show Me Wolves is less than one year old as a project, it’s quite remarkable how much improvement there has already been from one release to the next. I can only imagine what comes next.