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Shadow Music Ryan Harding Review by
Ryan Harding
December Wolves
Wicked World / Earache

A few years ago, this album could have been released by Earache. But as the brutal and inaccessible acts of Earache have since been pushed aside to make room for more easily marketable acts, Earache has resorted to releasing what was once expected from them on the Wicked World sub-label.

At least they’re still releasing it in some capacity, but unfortunately they chose to sign DECEMBER WOLVES. I say unfortunately because COMPLETELY DEHUMANIZED makes Earache subject to more scorn for hiding away such a mandatory album.

A glance at the cover would probably indicate a hardcore band to most people, but DECEMBER WOLVES is far from that. What they’ve managed to do is release what may be the first truly “American” black metal album. Its atmospheres and misanthropy are urbanized; no vamps tromping through the woods here, this is seething concrete decay.

There is a strategic use of samples throughout the 31 minute siege, the most interesting of which can be found throughout My Bible. A phone rings, a kid answers, and DW replies with no preamble in a barrage of blast-beats and scathing screams carried by one of the album’s best riffs. The tempos are usually at the blasting level, though tracks like "We are Everywhere" and "Not with Tainted Blood" are allowed some build-up. Devon supplies most of the vocals and all the lyrics, which are more unique than a title like "Friday the 13th" would suggest. Whoever the hell is drumming is laying to waste (not told in the liner notes, though the other instrumentalists are credited; if it’s a drum machine, then DW also wins the award for most authentic-sounding drum programming -- No drummer at all? not even -1-? Bah! -feo), killing the hi-hat between cymbal crashes.

They don’t abandon the role of production in creating black metal, giving themselves a suitably thick, heavy, and altogether abrasive sound. Though it may not receive much acknowledgement as such, this is a very impressive strike from a three (now four) man band from Boston, a necessity in any extreme collection. If it doesn’t finish as one of the top ten black metal albums of 1999, this year will have been far too good to be true.

5 Perplex Skulls

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This review copyright 1999 E.C.McMullen Jr.

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