CD, Malignant Records, 2009
Wolfskin is a new name to me, as probably it is to many other dark ambient enthusiasts, but with this debut release for the respected American label Malignant Records they should surely find themselves plenty of new listeners. This is a shame, as this interesting Portuguese act is in a terminal phase; having been operational since 1994, main man J.A. is planning only two more releases before he moves on to a new project. This third to last album, “O Ajuntar Das Sombras” (“The Joining of Shadows”), is something of a retrospective covering the period from 1998 to 2004, and as such offers a degree of variety while still sounding cohesively like the same artist throughout.
The two opening tracks, “The Body Of Chaos” and “The Wild Hunt”, betray their harsh names with pleasantly minimal and ethereal-sounding ambient passages, calmly introducing newcomers to the world of Wolfskin, gradually becoming more sinister as they develop. Paradoxically, “Cart Of Light” is a considerably darker track, with unsettlingly vague rhythms and disturbing whispers, a deep voice and threatening drums appearing midway, leading to some impending doom no doubt. “The Yew Column” remains in a darker place, yet fades again to a more minimal sound, until the ominous war drums and invocations return, this time accompanied by a deathly pipe with a very urgent tone. A more industrial side to Wolfskin is heard during “Rex Sacrorum”, with dense grinding and churning sounds rumbling along menacingly, before lightening up in the second half, while “A World Of Veils” is quite hypnotic with its cyclical structure, superficially repetitive yet subtly changing.
The title track is another airy piece, giving an image of a desolate wasteland following some terrible kind of devastation or desertion, which is lent further melancholy when the drums, pipes and mournful Portuguese voice appear to lament the tragedy. It would have been good to have some lyrics and translations for the speeches in this album, as the Portuguese continues in “Iron Unfolded” and has my curiosity fully awoken, and despite a brief awkwardness, the track develops well to a swift conclusion. “Throne Of Stillness” has a good full sound with some dense drones suggesting some kind of deep-sea exploration, or perhaps investigating an ancient shipwreck lost in tragic circumstances. Finally, “Head Of Clarividence” (is that a word?) gives a genuine sense of emptiness, perhaps even loss, as J.A.’s sombre voice intones over some more spacious ambience.
There is little to fault on this album, perhaps only a slight lack of originality common to many artists in various genres, as well as a small degree of repetition throughout, but the overall album is very well executed and an enjoyable listen. I would certainly be interested to hear more from this intriguing artist before he calls it a day, and I’d recommend this album to any dark ambient fan looking for some ‘new’ artists.
— Nathan Clemence