Music Reviews


Cooking With Wolves

Digitalis Recordings

What sucks about almost going blind is that you lose a lot of your enthusiasm for things you otherwise love, love, love and kind of start circling the wagons into total self-pity. What rules about almost going blind is that the only thing you can do well is listen. Hence I became completely enmeshed in Wolfmangler’s blackhearted poise. Cooking With Wolves is an album that creates its own sense of time and place, so complete and fully realized, that you’re left open-mouthed and gibbering, like a long shadow passed over you, and you’ll perhaps not be the same again. It’s such a free and unfettered and beautiful album! I keep playing it for people–and though there is at first hesitation–there is thence recognition.

Wolfmangler creates a completely original sound, eschewing guitars and other traditional rock instrumentation (check out the silver sigils proclaiming “No guitars were used in the recording of this album”), for pitch-dark meres of tense sound, created by a mix of acoustic and electric bass instruments, with what sounds like spare, woodblack percussion and the strangulated whispers and Kinski-with-throat-cancer leers of frontman/leader Smolken.

Smolken, as you may have heard, recently upped sticks from Texas and resettled in his native Poland, in the process shedding any band members that remained up to that point. Now free to explore his own eccentric visions in a very different setting, the move seems to have done him (and us) a ton of good. More emigration! The song selections are similarly puckish and inspired, traditional songs, numbers by Cole Porter and even George Gershwin get recast as the last laments of a dying mystic. The second half of the album is a reissue of an earlier CD-R release (“The Gates of Wolves”)–and it shows a very different side to a young Wolfmangler, with a full ensemble in tow. The songs are a good deal fuller, utilizing more instruments, sounding like a cross between a gypsy orchestra, the Velvet Underground, and a funeral procession. The darkness isn’t so total, the songs are more spry (though not, you’ll understand) and there’s more palpable drama–I prefer the newer stuff.

Maybe Wolfmangler bears some tertiary (and most likely coincidental) similarity to Coil, or Death in June, or–stretching it–Current 93, but little else comes to mind, honestly. It’s folk music, it’s chamber music, it’s classical music, it’s heavier than heavy doom, it’s exotic, it’s European, it’s black metal, the soundtrack for a syphilitic royal court slowly rotting in some forgotten European city-state, it’s unfathomable bleakness the likes of which Cathedral only hinted at on Forest of Equilibrium or the music of Burzum/Darkthrone/Khanate/Amber Asylum slowed and stripped to a dying crawl, forced to live out your last minutes over and over again.

Cooking With Wolves is a thing of austere, aristocratic, and consumptive beauty. It is music for soundtracking FM Murnau’s lost silent films or perhaps some broken, rusted, Communist-era Marionette morality play full of murders, suicides, and old men in dark robes. You are unlikely to hear anything else come even close to the eerie menace it exudes. I have nothing but fucking praise for it.

Digitalis Recordings:

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