Review: ‘Damned’ – Wolfbrigade

I’ve already done a short piece on Stockholm, Sweden’s’s Wolfbrigade.  They have been around for some time and have pioneered the Discharge-influenced D-Beat crust sound relentlessly.  Their latest release, ‘Damned’ is available on Southern Lord Records, and is a 12-track LP which lasts a mere 35 minutes in total.  

The album starts with ‘Feed the Flames’, which gives away the album’s really excellent production.  They’ve captured almost exactly the powerful, deep sound that characterised ‘Hear Nothing, See Nothing, Say Nothing’.  The drums and bass underpin the sound, and the heavy, mountainous guitar attack that Bones, Discharge’s legendary guitarist, unleashed on the world back in the early 80s is authentically reproduced.  Mid-paced songs are mixed with slower numbers, one of my current favourites being ‘Damned to Madness’ which brings to mind ‘Protest and Survive’.

But let’s look beyond the obvious; although they trade on a style that is consciously derivative, Wolfbrigade aren’t totally about blind reproduction of something that has gone before.  This album, their eighth, sees them again developing their own sound, with melodic guitars and metallic influences showing through on ‘Ride the Steel’ that bring to mind the likes of early Celtic Frost, whilst the Scandinavian influence of bands such as Rattus, Totalitar and Disfear clearly shows.  But at the core of each track is the shattering intensity and the power that simply bulldozes everything in its path.  The anger and general ‘Fuck You’ attitude that lies behind this record makes it sometimes a harrowing listen.

The music is incredibly dense, yet all the component instruments are clearly discernible in the mix.  These Swedes have captured the cold, the desolation and the power of nature in their north European homeland expertly on ‘Damned’.  In fact, the only criticism I would level at the release is that ultimately Wolfbrigade have defined themselves and their style with such authority that they will find it very difficult to find any new converts to their music other than those who already like to consume the output of bands who play explicitly in the D-Beat style.

But there’s another thing that’s been gnawing away inside me.  I haven’t been able to put my finger on it….wait! Rewind again, way back in the day.  I know what it is. Growing up, and taking into account my personal points of reference, the 70s merged into the 80s at the time when my childhood naiivete became burgeoning awareness of the world around me.  The things I recall were British Leyland car workers on strike, the Icelandic Cod Wars, and the most significant escalation in the nuclear arms race since the Cuban Missile Crisis.  And that last event was what made bands like Discharge somehow special – or maybe it was just that the band was a powerful signifier of that period.

My point is that the Discharge rage was directed at a very tangible, and at the time very frightening proposition that really affected everybodys’ lives at the time – the very real possibility of an iminent, possibly nuclear, war.  This somehow made their music relevant and their anger justified, and their whole stance immediately political, whilst it existed in stark counterpoint to the escapism of the emergent New Romantic movement which had become almost the default youth culture of the time, in ignorance or defiance of the touchy political landscape.

Let’s bring the whole situation right up to date.  In summary, the release of ‘Damned’ makes me glad that there bands like Wolfbrigade out there.  It’s a stormingly fine slab of punk/metal, and one of the better releases of 2012 so far.

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