LUCIAN THE WOLFBEARER
Self-released, February 2014
A solo studio project from Sean M Katz, of black metal band Benighten Empire, this full-length release follows hot on the heels of last year’s folk-influenced ‘Void’. This time, though, Katz – or Lucian – focuses his creative attentions on the manufacture of ghostly doom metal, with great results.
There are moments of miserable genius here, such as the wonderfully understated riff that opens ‘Gateway’, or the clean vocal part in the second half of ‘Through Fire And Decay’. And while there are some aspects that are less effective, there is a huge amount of personality and inventiveness running through this album from start to finish.
After a moody, synthy opening song, the ear-slicing guitars are revealed on ‘And The Pale Horse’, and what they lack in low-end they make up for in searing anguish. Too often, the bass is faint in the mix, which, in combination with the high pitch of the lead guitar, means that some passages lack the gravitas to fully do justice to Katz’s ideas. Thankfully, the ideas keep coming, and after the pale horse has cantered by, ‘Gateway’ kicks in and the album goes up another notch.
Throughout much of this dark and intriguing album, shadowy choral backing provides an atmospheric platform from which the music rises and falls, and the vocals growl and wail. The distant, echoing choirs are sometimes grandiose and epic, sometimes a little indistinct or predictable, but they always add to the overriding gloomy character of the album.
While The Wolfbearer’s previous album was an acoustic, folky affair that could have come straight out of the Scandinavian tundra, ‘Haunted’ is the kind of traditional, gothic-tinged doom metal that is easier to imagine coming out of Katz’s hometown of Cleveland, Ohio. That said, there is more than a hint of Swedish band Tiamat’s mighty 1992 album ‘Clouds’ in its somewhat primitive anguish and Katz’s husky tones. There’s also some of the rawness of early Celtic Frost, or Bathory’s ‘Hammerheart’, but without the crushing power.
Whether you appreciate the rough-hewn charms of ‘Haunted’ or prefer your doom a little more polished, there is no denying that this is an atmospheric curiosity that scours the darkest emotional recesses of your existence.
It’s available for free on Bandcamp but, as always, if you can send a bit of financial happiness to the artist, then you will almost certainly be favoured by the immortal gods of Doom and blessed with an eternity of listening to Saint Vitus.