I am very proud to say that in my time at Nine Circles Inc. I have been able to review a lot of albums from big name bands; stuff that is eagerly anticipated by many and sure to be a home run. For that I am incredibly fortunate, so you should know that I mean it when I say that I have never slapped my name on a promo faster and with more force than when I saw Wolfbite show up on our list. Suidakra is a name that will always elicit an enormous grin on my face, especially when there’s new music to be had.
For over 25 years and spanning a monstrous discography topping fourteen albums, Suidakra have been churning out a fantastic brand of Celtic-inspired melodic death metal, both in the sense that the music is wonderful and in the somewhat over-the-top fantasy embellishments they throw into their retelling of Celtic legends. Wolfbite marks the first new metal from the band since 2016’s Realms of Odoric, although they have released an acoustic album of brand-new cuts, an album of re-recorded fan requests from the beginnings of their career and a rerelease of their 1997 debut Lupine Essence. Since the beginning of the project, the one constant in the band has been singer, lead guitarist and primary songwriter Arkadius Antonik, and although there has been something of a revolving door of members, longtime fans of the band should recognize quite a few of the names who show up as main members, guests and featured performers. In fact, Wolfbite continues the band’s expansion into something of a collective that began on the aforementioned acoustic Cymbric Yarns, bringing together old faces from the band’s past with new blood. Returning are mainstay guests Tina Stabel on vocals, Axel Roemer on bagpipes and the return of former guitarist and vocalist Marcel Shoenen on vocals. Arkadius’ Fall of Carthage bandmate Sascha Asbach cameos as the narrator of the story and creative collaborator Kris Verwimp takes his rightful seat behind the veil, contributing album artwork and lyric writing. If you know anything about the long history of the band, it shouldn’t surprise you to see any of these names, but to have them all together in one place with one shared vision is truly something special. Thematically, that vision carries on the band’s venture into their own cinematic universe, continuing the story that they began on Realms of Odoric, adding new characters and a new story to the world they have been quietly building for years and across several different musical projects.
Suidakra’s music has always been characterized by their keen sense of melody and their ability to craft songs that play with dynamics without ever really letting off the gas pedal. Even since their beginning, Arkadius has always had a strong sense of what he is good at, and that is pairing savage riffs with soaring melodies that get stuck in your head and refuse to find their way out. That and being masterfully capable of capturing the essence of Celtic flavor are kind of the recipe for what makes Suidakra who they are, and on Wolfbite the band continue full steam ahead on what they know they can do and do well. For my money, the best song on the album, one of the finest in their whole career and the perfect example of what makes Suidakra a force to be reckoned with is “Darkanian Slave.” Led by Tina Stabel’s haunting vocals and the wildly euphoric violin melodies contributed by newcomer Shir-Ran Ymon, the song gallops through tight riffs and soaring melodies, but manages to capture something so much more with the way the band, especially bassist-turned-drummer Ken Jentzen, shifts tempo and feel to serve the story first and foremost. Wolfbite has a feel to it that goes beyond just a good album. It truly feels like a cinematic experience, and the way that all the various players come together to serve their role helps keep the immersion high throughout.
It will never quite make sense to me why Suidakra are not more of a household name in the melodeath scene. For over a quarter of a century they have been churning out incredibly catchy, bombastic and, most importantly, wildly fun music that is clever and exists in niche mostly its own. Perhaps it is because, as the band themselves readily admit, they don’t do a whole lot to reinvent the wheel with each release, but I kinda don’t need them to. The only thing I will ever ask of Suidakra is to make more Suidakra records, and on Wolfbite they capture everything that made me fall in love with them as far back as 2009’s Crogacht. For a band that doesn’t really do bad albums, this one stands out all the same.