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Direwolf - "Beyond the Lands of Human Existence" (CD)

Direwolf - "Beyond the Lands of Human Existence" CD cover image

"Beyond the Lands of Human Existence" track listing:

1. World War IV
2. Beyond the Lands of Human Existence
3. 1,000,000 Enemis (Mercury's Disaster)
4. Murder the Creatures Who Inhabit the Black Sun
5. Final Flight
6. The Prophet Failed pt.1: Confession
7. The Prophet Failed pt.2: Lamentation
8. The Prophet Failed pt.3: Departure
9. Epilogue

Reviewed by on February 10, 2008

"The thought of alien species wearing corpse paint may be hilarious, but this effort is anything but a joke"

Sci-fi theme? Check. Progressive and technical? Check. Black Metal? Sure, why not? This is Direwolf, a bizarre one-man creation that could only have burst forth from a creative mind like that of Behold…the Arctopus guitarist Mike Lerner. The thought of alien species wearing corpse paint may be hilarious, but this effort is anything but a joke, instead being worthy of the attention of any prog-metal fan who can handle something new.

As strange as this mixture is, it's a stone's throw from two well-known camps. The first piece of the Direwolf puzzle is a base in the intricate technical influence of bands like Spastic Ink and Spiral Architect. The second piece of the puzzle is a progressive black-metal sound reminiscent of the later works of the mighty Emperor. In a way it represents a black-metal version of the template put forth by death-metal band Nocturnus, with their 1990 album "The Key".

The riffs on this album are quite idiosyncratic to Direwolf, as most center around hypnotizing repetitions of complex patterns—make no mistake—because Lerner's guitar and all things progressive are the focus. Despite being made all the more chaotic by the blast-beats and intense drum propulsion, they manage never to sink into the weird, ear-destroying insanity of fellow boundary-pushers Orthrelm. Surprisingly, the riffs found on this album are also quite dissimilar to that of Behold... The Arctopus. Their structured and altogether "metal" feel contrasts the rather avant-garde weirdness found on "Skullgrid," favoring melody over atonal mess. As seen in most "one man band" scenarios, Lerner utilizes a drum machine for the percussion. While this does provide an air of sterility to the album that some may see as a restriction, it also brings some mind-bendingly precise and intense drum tracks. Synthesizers are used to strong effect providing an eerie sci-fi atmosphere that fits snuggly with the many interesting samples dotted along the way.

To make things a little more interesting, the vocal duties are supplied in a variety of ways. The voices of the story include robotic vocoder voices, harsh black-metal rasps, and ever present spoken word musings. While this is a great approach, providing yet another dimension to these unknown territories, I felt there was a noticeable void in the Direwolf concept that was screaming out to be filled by a serious vocalist. However, the sheer diversity in the vocals ensures yet another layer in an album that stands above the rest in pure "thinking outside the square."

By the time the melancholy acoustic guitar of "Epilogue" draws to close the theme, complexity and altogether odd characteristics of "Beyond The Lands Of Human Existence" come together nicely, with the constant swirl of notes, as if a dizzying fly-by of warring alien territories, and the intense blast-beats of the violent scourge of interstellar battle. If you're willing to try something new, Direwolf will truly take you beyond the lands of human existence.

Highs: Creative and refreshing progressive music

Lows: Vocal limitations may put some listeners off

Bottom line: A strange creation that cannot be missed by fans of original music

Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls
4.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)