Ulfarr / Hrafnblóð – Wulfhere (2013)
Review by Jude Felton
Abandon hope all ye who enter here. This phrase sums up perfectly this split album released by UKEM Records, as it not only takes you down to hell, but also invites you to stay awhile. To say that this is cold and bleak would be to sell it short, so maybe a trip to hell would be the perfect tonic.
The first four songs are from Ulfarr and start off with the haunting intro, which lulls you into a false sense of security, before crashing into the 9 minute Laid to Rest. For the next twenty minutes or so, between Laid to Rest and Forgotten by Time, we get treated to some incredibly abrasive atmospheric Black Metal that slowly strips away any hope you may have. To me Ulfarr reminded me of Ov Hollowness, albeit a far rawer sounding and caustic version, but definitely in a similar vein. Ulfarr close out their half with the short, but sweet, Cold in Death II, which is almost a respite from the musical devastation. Almost.
Hrafnblóð waste no time in ratcheting up the sonic assault, as their half of the album gets underway with Líf and Lífþrasir. This is followed by the equally intimidating Descent of the Black Fog, Fires of Dresden and Englaland, as they blister through their brand of bleak Black Metal. Hrafnblóð actually released their half of this album previously as Geosceaftgast, but there were only 20 copies made, so this is the perfect opportunity to check it out.
Wulfhere is an absolutely cracking release, with both English bands complimenting each other perfectly. Ulfarr’s sound is definitely a more stripped down and raw affair, with Hrafnblóð offering up a fuller sound. Nonetheless, both offer up some truly bleak and soul-destroying music that offers very little respite to the listener during its 50 minute or so running time.
If I had any issue at all with this release it would be the drum sound on Ulfarr’s tracks, which came across as a little thin. This wasn’t enough to take away my enjoyment of the four tracks though, and I certainly look forward to more from this Cumbrian outfit.
Overall, Wulfhere is a highly recommended album, and definitely a terrific introduction to both bands. UKEM Records describe the album as dark, raw, atmospheric and bleak Black Metal; they weren’t underselling it. It is all of those and more, and offers up plenty of variety whilst still flowing perfectly as one cohesive album. Abandon hope all ye who enter here, and welcome to the abyss.