A Pagan Storm

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Not ones for subtlety or subliminal messaging, the members of Wolfchant didn't think twice about slapping a threatening-looking wolf on the snowbound cover of their second album, and then made double-sure to qualify their unwavering folk-metal credentials by entitling it A Pagan Storm. Errrr, Hail! Not that there's anything wrong with stating the obvious when one's particular blend of blackened Viking metal comes across as convincingly as these guys' does -- and they're not even Scandinavian by birth, but German tax-payers, curiously enough. But, yes, Wolfchant's music is perfectly suited to raping and pillaging all day and then getting roaring drunk later that night, because the length and breadth of their songwriting almost inevitably falls into one of the following three categories. First we have the kind of songs evoking visions of the quintet galloping into unsuspecting hamlets upon grim and foaming steeds, swinging their swords to the power metal-paced onslaught of "The Path," "A Wolfchant from the Mountain Side," and "Stärkend Trunk Aus Feindes Schädel." Then there are the tunes depicting the back-and-forth of battle joined, via somewhat slower, more varied, but still insistent and majestic riffing tempos threaded with mournful folk melodies, such as the title track, "Winterhymn," and "The Axe, The Sword, The Wind and a Wolf." And finally, there are the suspiciously sprightly jigs that make the whole quest start sounding a tad silly -- specifically, drunken barroom singalongs like "Midnight Gathering" and "Guardians of the Forest" -- where only front man Lokhi's gravelly growls and rasps (and of course endless flagons of mead) stop proceedings from getting way too chipper. Then again, who are we mere mortals to begrudge these Teutonic Norsemen for their well-deserved spoils of metallic conquest? Ride on, Wolfchant, ride on…