Amoth – The Hour Of The Wolf

The Hour Of The Wolf Album Cover Art

Amoth – The Hour Of The Wolf
Rockshots Records
Release Date: 28/01/22
Running Time: 46:34
Review by Rory Bentley
7/10

When perusing the list of candidates for my first Ever Metal review I felt the need for something with a little familiarity to comfort me on this daunting maiden voyage and when I saw that AMOTH featured the vocal powerhouse that is Pekka Montin I knew this record would be a great place to kick things off. I had been blown away by Pekka’s soaring trad-metal bellow and his tasteful keyboard work on Ensiferum’s 2020 return to form ‘Thalassic’. On that record, Montin provided a crystalline vocal contrast to the more ragged Folk / Black Metal stylings the band had built their name on. He was used sparingly to great effect, but how will he fare carrying a whole album as the sole vocal presence?

Before discussing vocals it should be established that this is Amoth’s third full length album since their inception in 2008 and one that is keen to push the band’s considerable technical prowess to its absolute limits. As a self-proclaimed Progressive Heavy Metal outfit the band performs an intriguing balancing act between old school Heavy Metal foundations and more modern, sometimes jazz-inspired technicality. It is a balance that provides the record’s most distinctive moments as well as its most flawed.

Opener ‘Alice’ begins proceedings in a manner that shows everything that’s great about the band. The rhythm section is dynamic and unpredictable without straying so far as to disrupt the song’s structure and the guitars thunder in with a triumphant heft that recalls the beefy rhythmic tones of that American power metal outfit we don’t talk about any more ‘cos they tried to overthrow the US Government. I promise that’s meant as a compliment! 

This all-out attack is bolstered by Pekka’s sonorous chest belts and rabid Halford-style shrieks to create a red-blooded fist-pumping, thrashed-out heavy metal banger. From this point things get a little more uneven.

While there is a lot to like about cuts like ‘The Man Who Watches The World Burn’ and ‘It Ain’t Over Yet’, I can’t help but feel that the NWOBHM core and tempo-shifting prog approach displayed over the record sometimes results in the two styles clashing in a way that doesn’t serve the songs as well as it could, with potential denim-clad anthems frequently curtailed by jarring rhythmic shifts that see the vocals clinging on for dear life to hold the song structure together. At the same time those that enjoy a more challenging, obtuse approach may find these songs aren’t expansive enough with their flights of virtuosity to fully scratch that progressive itch. Depending on your point of view the prog elements could either be deemed as going too far or just not far enough, resulting in a muddled compromise that sometimes feels like they’re sabotaging their own songs.

If I’m sounding like Mr Grumpy here it’s because a.) I’m a very curmudgeonly man as my fiancé will attest to and b.) when the band gets the formula right the results are very good indeed, as displayed when the delightfully silly title track marauds through the speakers like a rabid leather beast to close out the album. I want way more of this and less of the two technically impressive but compositionally tepid instrumentals that break up the record and derail its momentum. I get it guys – you like Steve Vai, but you’re capable of writing actual songs with big hooks that can appeal beyond the niche of shred porn!

Grumbles aside this is a slickly produced, brilliantly-executed slice of heavy metal fun to kick off your year, and the potential for greater things is clear on here. Whether those greater things result in stripped-down sing-along anthems or labyrinthine Annihilator-style thrash workouts remains to be seen but if these guys can strike that balance more consistently going forward the next record could be something special.

TRACKLISTING:
01. Alice
02. The Man Who Watches The World Burn
03. Wounded Faith
04. Wind Serenade I
05. Wind Serenade II
06. We Own The Night
07. It Ain’t Over Yet
08. Traces In The Snow
09. The Hour Of The Wolf

LINE-UP:
Anne Lanttola – Bass
Tomi Ihanamäki – Guitars
Mikael Rauhala – Guitars
Pekka Montin – Vocals, Keyboards
Oskari Viljanen – Drums

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