The image above is not the album cover for Wolverine‘s seventh album, A Darkened Sun. What it is however, is an image that made an impression from the visual side of this audio/visual release. Wolverine have decided to do something particularly special here and put the listener in front of a half hour silent film surrounded by their lush yet impressive progressive metal. Ambitious? Yes. Asking a lot from fans? Again, yes. But, why not? After all, it is 2020 and the world is in a perpetual state of bad or worse consistently and any chance to break free from the norm is a welcome one. Plus, Wolverine don’t peddle your typical progressive metal so breaking free from the norm is something they take great pride in. Ambition equals tremendous success here, let’s discuss.
I spent some time here talking about Wolverine’s 2016 release, Machina Viva, and how it was a watershed moment in an already gleaming discography. It was the kind of album that artists dream of making at least once in their career. Looking back on the album previous to Machina, Communication Lost, it’s easy to hear there was something big coming. And it’s funny, really, as Wolverine have never changed their sound or who they are in progressive metal all that much. No about face turns, no major shifts, and no abrupt genre jumps. To my ears, Machina was the album that everything clicked perfectly and the results speak for themselves. And still do, I listen to that album regularly four years on.
Obviously, anticipation was at its peak after the announcement of A Darkened Sun across the band’s social media pages. This anticipation turned into astonishment when the realization hit me that this is at least as good as Machina. I mean, how can that be? And then to experience the music as sort of a soundtrack to a dark noir film is the icing on the cake, especially when said film is as if it were done by some of Hollywood’s finest noir producers. The music and film are products of careful consideration, plentiful hard work, and a band that genuinely cares about their output and fans.
The melancholy across the keys and gentle guitar tones offer plenty to contemplate and the incredible, up front, percussion drives it all home with an asterisk. The melodic heaviness interwoven throughout serves the songs well and gives it that extra heft. The proggy experimentation gives it life and electricity. But, take all these things together and you’ve got one hell of an album with depth, a soul, and abundant life. Wolverine knows who they are and don’t mince words or waste time fiddling with anything that doesn’t fit which is a trait they’re, by know, well known for. Film wise, the footage is incredibly well shot and setup. The acting perfectly portrays the music and lyrics. The dark color choices highlight and bring to life the album’s melancholic side. And, the film as well as album have a clear story arch and go hand in hand with one another.
The only reason I can’t definitively say A Darkened Sun tops Machina Viva is due to its runtime. However, half an hour fits this release like a glove and it doesn’t need to be any longer than it is. The story is told to its final chapter and the music is incredible from start to finish. Bottom line, Wolverine now have a second ‘album of their career’ and it’s made even better because of the visual aspect. As I said in the intro, this is an ambitious release. And one that is an obvious risk. But, again, the results speak for themselves where success has struck twice now. Wolverine is the band I go to when I need immersion and an escape with something comfortable and familiar, and A Darkened Sun will be that album, at least until their next.