Every so often an album comes along seemingly out of nowhere so that its mark is made even more indelible because of its previous anonymity to a particular listener. For me, Oblivion is one of those albums. I would encourage anyone reading this review to stop, go listen to the embed below, and then return for the remaining synopsis. Okay, now that you’ve heard what I’m talking about, lets continue with the review. Realm of Wolves are a Hungarian band that formed this year. Even though that’s what the bio indicates and based on what I’m hearing, they must have been doing their black metal woodshedding for some time now. Earlier this year they released an EP, Shores of Nothingness, and now follow it with this debut full length.
Oblivion opens with “Cascadia,” which musically takes to heart its namesake and ventures through instrumental territory well-trodden by Agalloch and Wolves in the Throne Room. “Ignifer” follows this as the albums first full band track. Here we get a better glimpse into the vast micro cosmos Realm of Wolves are working in as it takes dashes of melodic black metal, heavy metal guitar harmonies and post metal somberness to create something wholly unique yet totally familiar in the black metal realm.
It’s these effortless combinations of influences that makes Oblivion such an interesting and inspiring album. They manage to create catchy hook laden tracks while still taking the listener on an existential musical journey through forgotten landscapes and hidden places of whispered legend. “Twelve Miles to Live” has a folky opening guitar line which instantly brings to mind Saor or later period Nokturnal Mortum and continually adds layers until it collapses back in on itself in exhausted glory.
Integrated throughout Oblivion are instrumental tracks that actually enhance the flow of the album and serve to expand their post/folk/blackened atmospherics. “Into the Woods of Oblivion” is a nine-minute epic which Realm of Wolves make so engaging that it flows by begging for repeat listens, and that’s the reoccurring strength of Oblivion as a whole. The guitar melodies throughout are so creative and emotional that they keep you invested from the moment your journey begins. The sometimes clean, mostly growled/rasped vocals, take more of a percussive back seat but that’s not a negative in the album’s context and works to give yet another element to the soundscapes created here. There are some production peculiarities on the album that make me think it was recorded at various times and locations but these are minor notes and take nothing away from the totality of the album.
Simply put, Oblivion is instantly engaging and an utter triumph as far as this style of music goes. In an age of plastic music, this is an album that demands full attention from start to finish. Give it the listen it deserves from front to back and ye’ shall be rewarded dutifully in the lush world found within Oblivion (how ironic is that statement?). Realm of Wolves have a winner here, making it one of the best albums of 2018.
– J. Coleman