Vlk- “Of Wolves’ Blood”

Vlk

It’s been nearly three years since Chicago-based black metal act Vlk has made an appearance on Black Metal & Brews. In that time, a lot has changed with both this site and the band. Black Metal & Brews is no longer a tiny hobby project and Vlk has evolved into a three-piece with a far more feral and jagged sound. While some of Vlk’s initial post-punk influence seems to have been shed, this has led to a bolder and more furious black metal sound. On their debut full-length for Tour de Garde, Of Wolves’ Blood, Vlk still revels in melody and experimentation while keeping a cold and true pulse running throughout.

While the Unknown Totems EP was a magnificent offering of treble-driven black metal of a most venomous nature, Of Wolves’ Blood offers a fuller and more exploratory sound. There is less of the modern American black metal sound explored on the debut and a far more timeless wintry assault with a crisper production that aids the sound without taking away the edges that make Vlk so evocative. The creaking vocals are thankfully still in place in all their crackling glory, never quite reaching a shriek or howl. The compositions are often paced in that blissful middle ground where the songs feel neither like a trudge nor a blistering affair, allowing everything to really breathe. It’s the willful commitment to straddling the lines of melody and fury, of rawness and composure, that makes Vlk such an intriguing listen. Many acts could easily give in to the temptation to go wholly maniacal and grim, yet Vlk’s restraint shows a group that is intent on controlling atmosphere with a firm hand.

The first real display of this skill is on the lumbering title track, which lurches between nauseous leads and galloping drums in a maddening way. As a writer, it’s easy to get caught up in the arrangement of things, but with Of Wolves’ Blood it’s almost impossible not to get lost in the feeling instead of the composition. There’s something disorienting about the whole affair and it’s intoxicating, like giving in to a situation over which one has no control and simply letting fate take its course. Vlk offers a few delightful earworms on songs like “Winter’s Warm Embrace” and “Ancestral Remains,” but even at its most straightforward, this album proves to be an enchanting and breathtaking experience. Black metal is an ever evolving format, but releases like this will never fail to remind us of the genre’s most potent elements. Get a tape while you can or throw these talented folks a few bucks on bandcamp and keep it in your computer.