Growth and change are never a bad thing in a band, within reason, of course. Some bands take the experiences of the road and of growing older and use it to forge a new path for themselves, and some use it to hunker down and double up on what makes them great. Wormwitch, a band I have had my eyes on for some time, have opted for the latter on their newest release, Wolf Hex. Their furious blend of black metal, old school thrash and death metal has always been a winning combination, and it is on this release that they seem to have found the winning proportion of everything.
Wolf Hex marks the third full length from the unabashedly Canadian foursome, following up on the excellent (in this writer’s humble opinion) Heaven That Dwells Within. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Wormwitch began life as a hardcore punk band before quickly disbanding and refocusing themselves towards a grander purpose, “cutting the fat” as the band puts it. There is an unquestionable punk attitude that informs the music Wormwitch creates, certainly, but also the spirit and energy they carry. Wolf Hex was created and recorded by the band in their own studio, and the band engineered the album themselves with the partnership of Tim Creviston. Vocalist Robin Harris also designed the cover art, symbolizing the band’s anti-state, anti-authority and anti-religion stances. The biggest difference between Heaven That Dwells Within and Wolf Hex seems to be the band’s doubling down on their beliefs. Wolf Hex makes no attempt to obscure Wormwitch’s political and spiritual leanings: this is a band that is committed to individuality, independence and the exaltation of the self. It’s the left-hand path the way it was always meant to be.
The other aspect of Wolf Hex that stands out the most to me is how much more…Canadian the sound is, if that makes any sense to anyone. As someone who is not from Canada, I feel like I’m on thin ice already and I don’t want to come off as an authority on the subject, but there is something aesthetically that has changed in the band that I cannot quite put my finger on except to say that it feels more Canadian. Never mind the fact that there is a track on Wolf Hex called “Canadian Denim Mountain Attack,” which 1.) absolutely whips ass, and 2.) might take the cake as the best song title of the year and possibly all time. The whole album feels more wild and untamed than their previous efforts. There is a heavier emphasis on folk and field recordings in the interludes between the songs, lending the impression that one is listening to this album in the middle of the woods. Even when the songs proper kick in, the guitars seem so much more full and spacious, and Harris’s vocals seem much harsher and less refined, more like a man possessed than a musician in a studio. Of course, there is plenty of everything that made me fall in love with Wormwitch in the first place. The thrashy brand of black metal that they have always played has only gotten more refined, maybe with a heavier influence on the old school vibes, with insanely catchy riffs and wild guitar solos that are impossible to keep a straight face toward while listening. Hell, there’s even a Metallica cover to close the album out. Everything about this album feels like a streamlining of the band’s signature sound. If there was any fat left to cut after Heaven That Dwells Within, it’s gone now.
“No mercy, ride or die, Wormwitch will evolve forever.” That’s the mantra of the band, at least. While musically there wasn’t a large shift, Wolf Hex marks a pretty significant change in the tone of the band, and it serves them well. This is an album that I know I am going to be having a lot of fun with, especially with it still being “windows down, volume up” weather. I am hoping that Wolf Hex sees the band get the recognition they deserve, because what they deserve is to be household names in the arena of blackthrash.