The Monuments of Ash & Bone is the fourth full-length release from American black metal band Wolvhammer. The latest in a long line of releases, including several splits and EPs from the band, The Monuments of Ash & Bone is an interesting combination of extreme metal stylings. If you’re a fan of black metal and aren’t afraid to hear a band step outside the box, this album is definitely worth a listen.
The album starts out with the track “Eternal Rotting Misery.” The song immediately hits you with its pummeling instrumental and shrieking vocals before transitioning into an equally aggressive D-beat style passage. Although I felt the song went on a little bit too long, it is important in establishing Wolvhammer’s style. If you’re a black metal purist of sorts, you’ll probably find something to complain about by the end of this first song. The guitar tones aren’t nearly as shrill as those employed by influential black metal bands like Darkthrone or Gorgoroth, but are no less punishing. This may not be news to readers more familiar with the band’s catalogue, but as a new listener, it’s nice to hear that Wolvhammer are willing to experiment.
This spirit of experimentation is also present in songs like “Call Me Death,” the first to feature clean vocals. The brooding, folk metal-esque vocals compliment Adam Clemens’ usual shriek well and bring an interesting element to the album. The stylistic change about a minute and a half into “Law of the Rope” helps to add a further sense of dimension to the album.
My primary gripe with The Monuments of Ash & Bone is that Wolvhammer get a bit indulgent with the length of some of their songs. I didn’t feel that the drones at the end of “The Failure King” added much, apart from being a bit of a throwback to “Call Me Death.” Something a little noisier that lead better into the feedback that kicks off “Dead Rat, Rotting Raven” would have been preferable, at least to me. And while I did dig the closing track, “Solace Eclipsed,” the nearly nine-minute runtime was a bit of a stretch. I get trying to close the album out in a grand fashion, but the song seemed to take a little too long to really get started.
All in all, The Monuments of Ash & Bone was an interesting listen. This was my first introduction to Wolvhammer and it was quite exciting to hear a black metal band with such a willingness to experiment. While the album may not stand up as one of the trve black metal classics, it’s definitely one that I will be revisiting.
Written by Justin Bruce
*edited by Kate Erickson